What are CC and BCC in Email, and When to Use Them

what is cc and bcc in email

Say your company is launching a new product; you write a really long email about its benefits and features, design it, format it, proofread it — and then send it to a customer. Good job!

Now, do the same for the remaining 200,000 customers.

Doesn’t sound fun at all, right? That’s a few weeks of work, even with the handy copy-paste feature. You could just add the entire list to the “To” box, but that goes against email etiquette plus it exposes your email list, which probably took you years to build. 

Thankfully, email service providers came up with a solution — alongside the “To” box, they added a CC box and a BCC box for you to include more email addresses when you send.

But how are you supposed to use them? What’s the difference between the two? And what are the do’s and don’ts to remember when using these awesome features?

We answer all your questions and more in this in-depth guide on using CC and BCC in emails!


Table of Contents


What is CC in Email?

Ages ago, when letters were handwritten or typed on typewriters, they used carbon paper to create multiple copies of the document simultaneously. Carbon paper is a thin sheet coated with a layer of dry ink or carbon. To produce an extra copy of a letter, you just had to add a sheet of carbon paper between a pair of regular paper sheets. This would then recreate the writing/typing from the top paper sheet on the bottom sheet.

The term “CC” gets its name from this history; it stands for “carbon copy.” When you CC someone on an email, you send them a copy of the message for informational purposes. While your primary recipient is the main addressee, CC recipients receive a copy of your email. 

You can use CC when you want to keep additional individuals in the loop or inform them about the communication without making them the primary recipients. CCing is a common practice in professional and personal email communication, allowing for transparency and collaboration

It’s essential to use CC thoughtfully to avoid overwhelming recipients and to ensure you include the right people in the conversation. Now that we know what is CC in an email, let’s discuss BCC.


What is BCC in Email?

BCC stands for “blind carbon copy” in email. When you BCC someone on an email, you are sending them a copy of the message without the knowledge of the primary recipient or other CC recipients. BCC is often used when the sender wants to keep certain recipients confidential or maintain their privacy. 

This can be helpful in situations when you want to send a message to a large group of people, and you don’t want to disclose the email addresses of all your recipients. You can also use BCC to prevent reply-all situations where recipients might inadvertently respond to everyone included in your email. 

It’s important to use BCC responsibly and ethically, respecting the privacy of individuals and avoiding misuse of this feature.


The Difference Between CC and BCC

So, both CC and BCC send copies of your email to people — but how are they different? Here’s a quick comparison of the two.

*Carbon Copy (CC)Blind Carbon Copy (BCC)
VisibilityAll recipients can see who is CC’dRecipients in BCC are hidden from other recipients
PurposeEmail multiple recipients openlyConcealing the identity of certain recipients
Involvement levelRecipients can participate in the email chainRecipients in BCC will not receive future updates to the email chain unless explicitly included
Visibility of repliesAll recipients can see replies from othersReplies to BCC recipients are not visible to others
Privacy levelsLess private, as all recipients are visibleMore private, as BCC recipients remain hidden
Use caseSuitable for small groups where transparency is neededUseful for large groups, preserving individual privacy
The Difference between CC and BCC

There’s a reason both CC and BCC exist — they have unique use cases. 

We shall now study different scenarios in which you should use these features.


When to Use CC in Emails

You should use the CC function in emails when you want to inform additional recipients about a message but don’t necessarily need them to take immediate action.

Here are the situations in which using CC might be appropriate:

  • Information sharing: Use CC to inform relevant parties about a conversation or project without directly involving them. It allows for transparency and ensures that everyone has access to the information.
  • Documentation: You can use CC to document communication. By copying certain individuals, you create a record of who received the information and when; this can be valuable for reference and accountability.
  • Collaboration: When working on a project with multiple stakeholders, CC can help in keeping everyone updated on progress and decisions.
  • Visibility: If you want others to be aware of a communication without being the primary recipient, CC is a good choice. This is common in professional settings where team members or supervisors may want to be in the loop.

Be considerate of people’s time and only include critical stakeholders on your CC list. If you expect someone to take action or respond, it might be more appropriate to include them in the “To” field rather than CC.


Using CC: Examples

Below are specific examples of when to use the CC function:

  1. To update relevant team members and inform them about project updates.
  2. For urgent issues that need an immediate response from stakeholders.
  3. You can CC supervisors, managers, or other stakeholders to loop them in on upcoming meetings and discussions.
  4. Want to send progress reports and brainstorm at the same time? Use the CC function so that your recipients can discuss issues in a timely and organized manner.
  5. The CC feature is useful for record-keeping, as you can CC a document management system or a backup email address to maintain a record of the shared document.
  6. CCs are great for event planning, as your recipients can chime in and discuss details.
  7. If a customer issue has been escalated, keeping relevant people on the CC list can reassure the customer and keep your higher-ups updated on the issue as it gets resolved.
  8. Use the CC function when dealing with vendors, as it keeps all necessary parties in the loop.

It’s clear from these examples that using CC is mainly about maintaining transparency and accountability. 


When to Use BCC in Emails

You should use the BCC function when you want to keep certain recipients confidential or maintain their privacy.

Here are the times when using BCC is ideal:

  • When you send an email to a large group of people who may not know each other and don’t have any reason to see each other’s email addresses. BCC ensures your recipients’ privacy in such situations.
  • When communicating legal matters that involve multiple individuals, BCC can help you maintain confidentiality. 
  • When communicating with clients or external vendors and you want to protect their privacy by not disclosing their email addresses to other clients.
  • When sending sensitive information to a group, use BCC to prevent accidental disclosure of your recipients’ email addresses to others in the group.
  • When sending an email to a group where replies are not intended for everyone, BCC can prevent reply-all mishaps and ensure only you receive responses from readers.
  • When forwarding an email that contains sensitive information or personal details to multiple recipients, use BCC to prevent exposing their email addresses.

Remember to use BCC responsibly and ethically. While it provides privacy, it’s essential to be transparent about why you are using BCC and ensure that it aligns with privacy and regulations. Misusing BCC can turn you into a pesky spammer and violate email etiquette and trust in the process.


Using BCC: Examples

Deciding whether to use CC or BCC? Below are situations better suited for BCC.

  1. Invites: Use BCC when sending out invitations or event announcements where recipients’ email addresses should be kept private, especially if the recipients don’t know each other.
  2. Job applications: When replying to job applications or inquiries, use BCC to keep the identities of applicants confidential, especially if you’re responding to multiple candidates at once.
  3. Collecting feedback: Add your contacts to the BCC list when sending surveys or feedback requests; this protects their privacy and avoids sharing their contact information.
  4. Greetings: The BCC function is perfect for times when you want to send group greetings, holiday messages, or announcements to a list of contacts who may not be familiar with each other; use BCC.
  5. Collaborations: When working on collaborative projects that involve external partners, use BCC to prevent disclosing the email addresses of your internal team to external contacts.

With these examples, we’re confident you’re all set to use CC and BCC in the best way possible! But wait; are there rules to the “To” field as well? 

Let’s check.


The Significance of the “To” Field

The “To” field in an email serves a fundamental purpose; it designates the primary recipient of the email message. It specifies the person or group whom the email addresses. 

The “To” field signifies that the message requires the direct attention and response of the individuals listed, implying a level of responsibility or action on their part. This field provides clarity and courtesy, ensuring the primary audience is immediately evident. 

When recipients reply to an email, the default behavior is usually to reply to all individuals listed in the “To” field, encouraging open communication among the main recipients. The visibility of recipients in the “To” field, their order, and the grouping of individuals play a secondary role, too. It’s a big part of email etiquette, as it conveys hierarchy, priority, and the intended audience for the message. Additionally, the “To” field is valuable in email filtering as it helps users organize their inboxes. 

Overall, understanding the significance of the “To” field is crucial for effective email communication in various contexts.


Using the “To” Field Correctly: Examples

Here are examples of situations when you should use the “To” field in email:

  1. When you send an email that requires direct action from the primary recipient, use the “To” field to address them directly.
  2. For personal emails or messages intended for a specific individual, use the “To” field to address the primary recipient.
  3. When assigning tasks or responsibilities, add the primary individuals responsible for the action to the “To” field.
  4. When sending invitations for appointments, meetings, or events, reserve the “To” field for the main participants whose attendance is critical. 
  5. When responding to customer inquiries, you can CC the customer and use the “To” field for the person or team responsible for handling the customer’s concerns.
  6. For internal communication where the message is relevant to the entire team, you can add all the team members to the “To” field. 
  7. Use the “To” field to address the primary recipients of the message when sending congratulations or acknowledgments.

Using the To, CC, and BCC fields correctly can help save time and avoid miscommunication. A standardized method of addressing recipients benefits all email users! 


CC and BCC in Email Marketing

You will rarely use the CC function as an email marketer, as your emails reach thousands, if not millions, of readers. In this situation, including a recipient in the CC box will only create confusion for your recipients. 

So, the focus switches to BCC — below, we shall review its various benefits in email marketing. 

  • Subscriber privacy: BCC is crucial in email marketing to protect the privacy of subscribers. When sending email marketing newsletters, updates, or promotional emails to a large audience, use BCC to ensure each recipient’s email address remains confidential.
  • Introductions: Use BCC when you introduce your marketing team to a potential partner or when you collaborate with external agencies. This protects the privacy of individual team members while still keeping everyone in the loop.
  • Prevent Reply-all mishaps: This is the biggest benefit of BCC — it prevents reply-all issues, especially when sending marketing communications to a large group. It ensures that responses come only to you and not to everyone on your mailing list.
  • Legal compliance: You can use BCC for cases where you need to send legal or compliance communications to a group of individuals. This helps maintain confidentiality and ensures that recipients’ information is not shared with others.

Both CC and BCC are valuable tools in email marketing, but align their usage with privacy regulations, best practices, and your specific needs.


Tips on using CC and BCC correctly

It’s vital that you keep email etiquette in mind when using the CC and BCC columns. Misusing these features can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and, in a worst-case scenario, complete loss of trust.

Here are the best practices to remember as you craft your emails using CC and BCC.

CC Best Practices:

  • Don’t use the CC feature in a confrontational way; if you add your superiors to an email chain at your workplace, it indicates to your recipients that you’re attempting to create trouble.
  • Use CC when you introduce two parties. By using BCC, you’re telling both of them that you don’t want them to be in contact. There are situations where that may be necessary; if not, it can seem rude.
  • Don’t just CC everyone. Decide who your email must notify, and keep the list as short as possible. No one likes getting a hundred emails that have nothing to do with them.
  • You can use the CC feature when you want to add people to your email conversation

BCC Best Practices:

  • Using BCC instead of CC keeps your readers’ email addresses private, and they will appreciate you for it. Make it a habit to double-check if the email addresses are in the right column before you hit the send button.
  • Use BCC judiciously; when people expect to be on the CC list, finding themselves on the BCC list instead can make them feel excluded or even suspicious of your intentions.
  • Remember, never use BCC to violate someone’s privacy. This could even have legal ramifications. For example, if you use BCC to send a confidential company email to an external email address, you will get a call from HR soon.

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy clear communication, appear professional, build trust among recipients, and foster a more efficient and respectful email culture in both personal and professional settings!


Email Best Practices with Campaign Refinery

Well, that was a fun topic! But email etiquette is just one part of the puzzle; being a great email marketer requires that you follow email best practices, too.

We believe in best practices for a simple reason — it is reflected in the numbers. With best practices, you will achieve better open rates, better engagement, and better conversions. And that’s why we only work with email professionals who already understand this; it’s the secret to our industry-dominating deliverability numbers

At Campaign Refinery, you have all the tools you need — great list management tools, powerful analytics, the best automation systems, template libraries, and more. With such features, best practices become second nature. 

Achieving greatness is just a click away — apply now to join Campaign Refinery

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