The advent of email has done an impressive job of making regular postal mail less relevant. Surely, we can all agree that email has made faxing extinct, too.

Although it’s efficient, fast, and versatile, email applications offer users a sometimes bewildering variety of features, commands, and utilities. Today, we’re looking at two components: CC and BCC.

This article explores the difference between CC and BCC in email, including what they are and when you should use each function. When we take the time to familiarize ourselves with these types of commands and learn when to use them, we can derive the maximum benefit from our email apps.

So, let’s get started with some basic definitions.

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What Is CC in email?

The term “CC” stands for “carbon copy.” Back in the elder dark days, before the Internet or copying machines, people made multiple copies of documents by placing a piece of carbon paper between two sheets of paper. When the user wrote on the first sheet of paper, the carbon copy paper pigments would be pressed onto the second sheet, creating a copy.

How times have changed!

In the world of email, CC is typically used to send a “carbon copy” of an email’s carbon copy to a group of people, and each recipient can see a list of everyone else who received the email. It’s a convenient way to send an email to someone without needing to address them personally.

CC is especially useful for group communication when you want to send one person an email but keep a different group of employees and management alike in the loop. So, people who are CC’ed into an email thread will receive subsequent email responses if “Reply All” is used.

CC Example

Here’s an example of how to use CC, with an image supplied courtesy of howtogeek. The sender wanted to send an email to two primary recipients but felt it necessary to ensure that several other people, presumably not directly involved in the exchange, were kept informed of what was being said.

Additionally, note the existence of the BCC field. We’re going to focus on that function next.

CC_BCC

What Is BCC in email?

BCC is an acronym for "blind carbon copy." People typically use BCC to send the email's carbon copy to multiple recipients, except each recipient can't see who is on the list of other recipients. People use BCC to send an email to many recipients but want to ensure everyone's privacy. Large organizations often use it to share announcements, newsletters, and other communication considered "impersonal."

Blind carbon copy recipients don’t receive further emails in the thread. So, for instance, if someone uses “Reply All” to respond to the original email, everyone in the “To” and “CC” boxes will receive the replies, while everyone in the “BCC” field will not.

BCC Example

Take another look at the original example image. You will see a BCC field located directly under the CC field. That's where you enter the email addresses of anyone you want to send the email to but do not disclose their existence to the CC recipients.

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What is the Difference Between CC and BCC in emails?

Let’s take a closer peek at the differences between CC and BCC in emails. We'll use this handy chart to illustrate the differences via a side-by-side comparison better.

 

CC

BCC

What it stands for

Carbon Copy

Blind Carbon Copy

Purpose

Openly informing staff and management directly involved in the subject.

Confidentially informing people.

Follow-up emails

Every recipient will receive any additional emails

There will be no other emails unless the emails are forwarded to the addressee.

Visibility

Everyone sees who received the email, facilitating their role in other conversations.

BCC recipients can't see each other and aren't included in subsequent email responses.

Additional uses

Suited to keep managers and stakeholders updated on current situations and progress.

Suitable for extending "the loop" to people who aren't directly involved in a project or situation but would benefit by being discreetly informed on what's happening.

When You Should Use CC

Use CC when you want a group of people to be informed about an email conversation, even if the subject doesn't directly involve them. For example, use a CC to keep management and other relevant people in the loop, relay an urgent message, or introduce new contacts to each other.

As a real-life example, I have had email exchanges with contentious people outside of my department, but I CC'ed my boss into the thread so that he could see what was going on and verify that my tone and words weren't out of line. So yes, sometimes you can use CC to protect yourself from allegations of being unprofessional since all the manager needs to do is review the email thread that they have been CC'ed into!

The CC is also an excellent way to show the recipients precisely who else is getting the message. So it's a great way to assure transparency while also informing the relevant parties.

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When You Should Use BCC

A blind carbon copy, on the other hand, is best used when you must let a significant-sized group of people know what’s going on, but with a more anonymous and impersonal approach. For instance, if you’re releasing a company-wide email about a new company event or policy.

BCC’s are great for newsletters, mass mailings, and messages sent to email subscribers. They’re also a good way to send an email without the primary recipient knowing about it. Although that may sound sneaky and dubious, there are instances where it’s warranted. For instance, it would have been appropriate to use the BCC option in the example presented in the CC section above!

And remember, BCC recipients don’t have the luxury of using “Reply All.”

What About “To”?

You may have noticed to “To” field in the image presented above. So, when do you use “To,” and when do you use “CC”? After all, they seem to accomplish the same thing, right?

Typically, corporate etiquette dictates that you place the email addresses of the primary, relevant recipient(s) in the “To” box and the other parties in the “CC” field.

So, to recap:

  • To. Use this field for the primary email recipients, those with something to do with the subject at hand.
  • CC. Use this field to loop in anyone who may have an interest in the subject being discussed.
  • BCC. Use this field for mass mailings and newsletters and to discretely bring in possible interested parties without revealing who they are.
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Now that you know the difference between CC and BCC, it’s time to get a career that gives you many opportunities to use them! Project managers are an essential part of today's corporate workforce, and one of their duties is ensuring that every project team member communicates with each other.

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About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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