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Reminder: Don’t Reveal Strangers’ Addresses on the To Line

Yesterday I received an email blast that went to 100 people. I know the exact number because all their email addresses were on the To line.

If I were a spammer gathering addresses to pad my email address book, I would have new people to prey on at Studley, SUBWAY, Success Metrics, Sulamerica, Sundt Construction, Sun Sports Cycle, Toshiba, Tartan Supply, University of Detroit Mercy, and many other organizations.

How frustrating for the hundred of us to have our contact information spread so thoughtlessly!

Please share this reminder with your coworkers who send messages to large groups of people outside your organization:

Do not put strangers' addresses on the To line. Put them on the Bcc line, or use email marketing services such as AWeber and Constant Contact.

If you have other reminders you want to share, feel free to do it here!

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

6 comments on “Reminder: Don’t Reveal Strangers’ Addresses on the To Line”

  • That’s very frustrating. Another problem with not using the Bcc line is the potential for a reply-all series that clutters 100 inboxes.

  • Even if I know all the people to whom I want to send an email, the To line requires some forethought: Do all recipients know each other? Even if they do, do I want to reveal all their names in the context of my email? Will someone not on the list be upset?

  • This is all true, but how should a request to refrain from using the ‘ cc to all’ line be worded? It is difficult to come up with a request that doesn’t sound either priggish or overbearing!

  • Hi, Elizabeth. One way would be to send out a link to this blog post, with the note “This is important information about writing to people outside the organization.”

    I will offer another way in a future post.

    Thanks for asking.


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