While the CC and BCC fields in your email app are similar, they serve two distinct purposes. Confusion between the two can occasionally result in unfortunate or even embarrassing situations. We’ll cover everything you need to know about these two email delivery methods, the differences between CC and BCC, and when each works best.
What Is CC and BCC?
The terms CC and BCC predate electronic mail by a long shot. They date all the way back to the days of interoffice business communication, when a letter was literally copied by sandwiching a piece of carbon paper between the original and the copy when typed on a typewriter. The copy was referred to as a carbon copy, and the top of the letter was frequently marked with “cc: Dave Johnson” to indicate who was receiving the copy.
The blind carbon copy, or BCC, conceals the concept of the carbon copy, so that the recipient of the message is unaware that the BCC recipient also received a copy.
Utilization of CC and BCC in Email
As a general rule, the majority of routine email should include recipients on the To: and CC: lines. The To line should include the most important recipients or those who require action in response to the email, while the CC line should include recipients who are receiving the email for information purposes only. You can include everyone on the CC line in certain circumstances, such as when sending a large communication (such as a newsletter) to a large group of people at once.
The BCC line is ideal for situations in which recipients’ privacy must be protected. For instance, if you’re sending an email to a large group of people who are strangers to one another, you can include everyone on the BCC line. Additionally, you can use BCC to allow a third party (such as a manager) to view your email in a discreet manner. The recipients of the To and CC messages will be unaware of the BCC recipient.
However, there is a risk associated with this method of using the BCC line, as the BCC field may not behave as expected:
- After the initial email is sent, the BCC recipients are removed from all subsequent replies, leaving them with only the initial message.
- If a BCC recipient chooses to Reply All, this person will appear on the thread for all recipients of the email. If you BCC’d a manager and the rest of the recipients were unaware, this can be construed as a breach of trust and is occasionally regarded as poor email etiquette.