Annoying Email Habits: Reply All, CC & BCC

Here are more results from Worktalk’s recent poll. Some of these ideas are covered in our course on Using Email Effectively. As I mentioned last week, “reply all” triumphed as the most annoying habit.

In response to the question, “What email habits annoy you most?” here are excerpts of what people wrote:

Hitting Reply All

  • People who hit “Reply All” instead of “Reply”
  • Reply all with trivial info/me too info
  • When people “reply to all” on email trails that have more than a few people.   Simply reply to the author of the email.
  • Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal if it’s just a single message and the reply MIGHT be useful to some of the recipients, such as when someone asks for a referral to a service or vendor. It IS annoying if there are 10 replies to all saying “ditto” and “me too!” or some non-content reply, such as LOL, which really should go only to the sender.
  • I agree the most annoying is Reply All to a mass group email where few on the list care.
  • Reply all is the most annoying to me follow by ‘forgot to mention one thing’ follow-ups
  • When people hit “Reply All” to a mass email.
  • Without a doubt, overuse of “Reply All”, either purposely (then I think they’re an idiot) or by mistake (then I know they’re an idiot).
  • The second most annoying habit is when, after a mistaken reply all message is sent, other users also reply all to tell the offending responders that they have replied all… Thus initiating a potentially snowballing effect of reply alls.

Inappropriate Use of CC

Note that using “CC” as a “CYA” maneuver has become a transparent ploy, one which is likely to irk other people in your organization. In our email training, I recommend that writers ask the people whom they usually “CC” whether they really want to get copies of all emails. Here are some poll responses:

  • Including half the world in the cc list. If you really can’t figure out who should get this, then you need to do a little bit of work. Sending to the world makes it seem like you haven’t bothered to give things any thought, and you probably haven’t. It also tends to generate a huge response chain, mostly including comments of those who are at best peripherally involved.
  • Copying others on emails I intended for a particular person/group (without checking)
  • I think it’s bad etiquette when persons who are only CC’d jump in and begin replying to emails without actually being solicited to do so in the email thread.
  • People who respond and CC the world strictly for a CYA
  • CC-ing people who don’t need to be included as a power play
  • Including someone on the CC list who wasn’t in on the original conversation, especially as a ‘cya’ maneuver.
  • Copying people who have nothing to do with the subject
  • I am annoyed by people who copy the world when it isn’t necessary. And while we all have the occasional typo (or maybe more than occasional), I receive a couple of form emails regularly that are created from a template with typos so I see them EVERY time. It makes me not want to buy from that store.

Not using “BCC” When Appropriate

  • The email bad habit that I find the most annoying is when someone sends a broadcast email to a large list or mailing lists and includes all of those addresses in the “To” or “Cc” address lines.  This practice leaves the door wide open for any one of potentially thousands of recipients to mistakenly “reply all”, resulting in the sending of unintended emails that then fill the, again, potentially thousands of in-boxes belonging to the lists’ subscribers with the messages meant for the original sender.
  • Failure to put a long list of recipients into BCC instead of TO, thus violating their privacy
  • On group emails with huge numbers of recipients, not creating a group list and putting it in the BCC, so that when one member of the group hits the Reply All, everyone gets the note.
  • One clarification or exception to using the BCC field:  Folks sending mass memos to large distributions should address their distribution in ‘BCC’ while addressing themselves in the ‘To’ field.  This way their distribution is kept confidential while replies will only be sent to the originating author.

As you can see, a few moments of thought about the purpose of the email and the appropriate recipients of the message can prevent you from becoming the author of an annoying email. This brings to mind the biggest land mine in our list of Email Land Mines: Writing in haste.  Rushing to hit “send” is the easiest way to fall prey to mistakenly broadcasting an email that should rightly be read by only a few individuals.

What are your pet peeves in email? Please write to me at and let me know.


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