This article was originally published as part of the Pobox blog. Pobox was acquired by Fastmail in 2015.

Email Etiquette is a series of blog posts that was nearly titled "Things you've tried to tell your family a million times, and have gotten tired of repeating." Have an email pet peeve that you'd like to see in a future blog post? Send an email to or leave a comment!

All of us are on someone's forward list. You know who it is: when you see their email address in your Inbox, you groan immediately, then page down through their forwarded headers, to see the latest in personal security warnings, luck chains, bad jokes, and dire news about the new tax on email.

Are you a forwarder? Here are some rules of the road to consider when forwarding messages to friends and family:
  1. Check first. Snopes is a rumor debunker, and usually, a quick search of their database will let you know if you're passing on true or false information. (One of my favorite recent forwards actually included the Snopes link in it, identifying the rumor as "a mixture of real virus warning and hoax.")
  2. BCC is a forwarder's best friend. BCC hides the email address of all your recipients, which prevents them from getting mail from your correspondents (and also reduces the chance that they'll get spam from someone who has an infected PC further down the forward chain.) If you have not yet had someone on your list accidentally reply to everyone on your message with, "Great to hear from you! Want to have dinner next week?", you will soon enough.
  3. Be diligent. You're essentially running a mailing list that people can't subscribe from. So, keep an ear out, and swiftly remove people who like to tease you about your forwards, or who just flat out say they don't appreciate them. Or, get a mailing list! Google Groups and Yahoo Groups have free options that are appropriate for most families. If you send regular messages to a larger group, you may want to consider a paid list with our sister service,
I've had to tell people that their family members were clicking the "This is spam!" button whenever they sent a forward. No one wants that. So, be conscientious, protect people's privacy, and try to send out only information that's actually true. The bad jokes I leave up to you.

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