Business | November 4, 2020

What do CC and BCC Mean in Email & How to Use Them?

Daniel Ndukwu

When you’re communicating online or digitally, many acronyms are thrown around and you’re expected to understand what they mean. SMS, CTR, KPI, CC, and BCC are just a few of them.

CC and BCC in email are important to understand because, like with other forms of communication, there are accepted norms around usage. If you use them incorrectly, it can have a negative impact on what you’re trying to accomplish and possibly damage your email report.

In this short guide, you’ll learn what CC and BCC mean in email, when to use each one, and when to avoid using them.

What are CC and BCC in email communication?

It’s likely that you’ve come across multiple fields when you’re sending an email. There are the From and To fields as well as two other fields labeled BCC and CC.

Example of CC and BCc in emailExample of CC and BCc in email

Both the BCC and CC area allow you to add multiple recipients to an email. There’s a distinct difference for when you should use each one.

What does CC mean?

CC means carbon copy and goes back to the days before email. When you wanted to create multiple copies of a document at once, you’d add carbon paper between each sheet of paper. Anything written on the top page would be copied to the pages underneath.

Likewise, when you add someone’s email address in the CC field, they’ll get a copy of the email you send. The important part is that you and anyone else receiving the email will see the entire list of recipients.

When should you use CC?

  • Sending to multiple people

The most common use of CC is when you want to send an email to multiple people. Technically, you can add all of them in the To field but that should be reserved for the main recipient. The CCed recipients are often secondary and only receive it so they’ll stay in the loop.

  • You want everyone to know that the email has multiple recipients

This is a courtesy that shows transparency. It’s simple to hide recipients in an email so showing all the recipients sets the tone for further interactions. In some cases, it can also keep people more honest.

  • You’re sending it to a third party to add weight to your email

Let’s say you’re having a bit of an issue with your bank and they’re not resolving it within an acceptable timeframe. You may send an email and CC the head of compliance at the bank or someone at the Federal Reserve.

  • When making introductions

If you want to introduce two people over email then the CC field is the perfect place for this. You may have to request that they remove you from the follow-ups because it can clog up your inbox.

When should you avoid CC in email?

  • When it’s going to be a long email chain

Instead of CCing the person, you may want to forward a specific email to them so they have a record of it. That way, they don’t have to specifically request you take them off the email chain or get their inbox clogged with otherwise irrelevant messages.

In the end, CC is a matter of proper email etiquette

What does BCC mean?

BCC means blind carbon copy and it does the same thing as CC with a slight difference. Recipients that are added in the BCC field get a copy of the email but other recipients don’t see their name in the recipient’s list. As far as they know, they’re the only person to get an email.

Put another way, when you CC people on emails, every person that gets the email can see the entire recipient list. When you BCC people on emails, the people that get the email only see the sender and have no way of knowing the email was sent to multiple people.

When should you use BCC?

  • To avoid alerting the primary recipient

There are many cases where you’d want to hide the other recipients of an email. For example, you may be having issues with someone in your organization and BCC an email to HR so they’ll have a copy of it.

  • When sending to a large number of people

If you’re focused on email marketing, you may come across the need to send a large number of emails outside of your email marketing tool. If that’s the case, you may want to avoid revealing contact information to other recipients (it can even put you afoul of the law).

BCC works well in this kind of situation. You’re able to send your email newsletter or promotional materials in bulk without worrying about sharing personal information with others.

  • In situations where you only want the extra recipients to get a single email

When people are CCed, they can click reply to all. This means everyone on the recipient list will get the reply. If half a dozen people hit the reply button then it can cause problems. With a BCC email, recipients have no idea that others got the email so they won’t be able to reply to all of them.

When you should avoid using BCC

Avoid using BCC when it’ll be discourteous to do so. For example, if you have copied your manager on an email with a client or customer, it should be CC, not BCC.

Do you need an ESP to send these emails?

No. You don’t usually need a dedicated email service to send emails to one person or small groups of people. If you intend to send emails to large numbers of people regularly then an email marketing service provider has many benefits. You can also use an email verification tool to clean your email lists for better results.

All you need is an email client like Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Outlook, etc. Most of them are free and the paid ones come with advanced features that a normal user wouldn’t need.

How do I spend less time on email but get more done?

Email marketing is an important part of growing a blog, eCommerce brand, and many other types of businesses. To do it manually would be a disservice to your customers and yourself. There are many tools out there that are inexpensive to get started but will help you automate much of your work.

It’ll allow you to create email sequences that are triggered based on certain actions. These can go out in bulk or to individual recipients. Yes, it’ll be more work upfront but it can save you hours over the long run.

Final word about CC and BCC in email

These are simple concepts to understand but can cause damage if used improperly. CC (carbon copy) sends an email to multiple people and everyone can see the entire recipient list. BCC (blind carbon copy) sends an email to multiple people but none of them can see the other recipients.

This guide has not only explained what each one is but how they can be used. It’s up to you to use that information wisely. Let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to share.


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