What Do CC and BCC Mean in Email?

Oren Todoros
By Oren Todoros, Updated on February 26, 2024, 11 min read

Wondering what the difference between CC and BCC are? See the complete breakdown below And keep in mind there’s much more to these email functions that at first meets the eye. So to help you get your email etiquette up to par, we explore how to use them correctly!

 

What Do CC and BCC Stand For?

CC and BCC

CC

In email, “cc” stands for Carbon Copy. When you cc someone on an email, it means you are sending a copy of the email to that person for their information and the Cc header appears inside the header of the received message. email

BCC

BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. When you bcc someone in an email, the other recipients in the “To” and “CC” fields will not be able to see that person’s email address

 

Both are used to add the email addresses of the people you wish to send your message to. However, they differ significantly in their usage.

 

To


CC


BCC


Primary contact/s


Secondary contact/s


Tertiary contact/s


Used for emailing individual or multiple contacts


Used for emailing individual or multiple contacts


Used for emailing individual or multiple contact


Email addresses viewable by all


Email addresses viewable by all


Email addresses viewable only by the sender


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What is the Difference Between CC and BCC?

Today, when asking what BCC in email is, we can think of it as a way to send a single message to multiple contacts—giving you a purely electronic way of copying your emails. However, where BCC differs from standard CC is that, whenever you enter email addresses into the BCC field, those email addresses will not be shared with the recipients of your email.

The “blind” part of BCC essentially hides any email addresses you enter into that field from the contacts you send your message to.

But what are CC and BCC in email? The early days of email were based on letter writing (electronic mail), and in the same way, you would produce two copies of a letter using carbon paper, you could now send an email to two people using the CC protocol. Put simply, by using the CC field within your email, you can easily send copies of your email to multiple email addresses.

 


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The BCC field is, in essence, an enhanced version of CC and fulfils its specific purpose. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy, allowing you to send copies of your email to multiple contacts without revealing the respective email addresses to your recipients. This function is designed to ensure you don’t share personal email addresses when sending email newsletters or other blanket emails to numerous contacts.

 

The meaning of CC and BCC is straightforward, and both terms reference an old method used to duplicate documents. Here’s what CC and BCC stand for:

 

CC ➡️ Carbon Copy

BCC ➡️ Blind Carbon Copy

 

Before the development of photocopiers, a sheet of carbon paper was used between an original document and a blank sheet of paper. As the document was written or typed on, the carbon paper transferred the content onto the blank sheet of paper.

 

BCC can be traced all the way back to the invention of email itself and is one of the earliest features that we still recognize today. BCC is an extension of CC (Carbon Copy), taking its name from the practice of using carbon paper to transfer original letters onto separate sheets of paper—therefore creating a quick and simple copy. The blind part of BCC, however, is unique to email.

 

When Should You Use CC?

USE CC WHEN ➡️ You want to send multiple copies of your email to contacts who are happy to have their email addresses shared. CC is often used to send emails to team members, staff in other departments, or anyone working on the same project. In most cases, all contacts will be familiar with each other or will be expecting an introduction from you.

 

When Should You Use BCC?

 

You should use BCC when You want to send multiple copies of your email to contacts that don’t necessarily know each other or who wouldn’t want their email addresses shared. BCC is often used when sending out newsletters, brand updates or offers, or marketing emails.

 

  • Mass Emails — These can include marketing emails, brand updates, sales emails or any other type of message that is sent to multiple recipients who share no association with each other.
  • Introductions —Sometimes, it can be useful to use BCC in an email introduction that neither recipient has requested or is expecting. Using BCC, you can connect people without revealing their email addresses, making an initial introduction that either recipient can choose to either accept or reject.
  • External Emails — BCC can be useful when sending external emails to clients, customers, or even colleagues in other locations. If you need your boss to be part of the thread without revealing a specific email address, then BCC is what you need.

 

There may be other occasions when you need to use BCC in an email, however, you should always be careful not to use BCC where CC would be better. Remember, BCC should only be used when your priority is protecting the email address of at least one of your recipients.

 

 

 

Remember, both CC and BCC can be used together on a single email. This allows you to share certain email addresses and keep others confidential.

How to Use CC and BCC When Writing an Email

In most email clients, you’ll find the CC and BCC fields next to or below the “To” field whenever you compose a new message. Using either CC or BCC is simply a matter of adding your recipients’ email addresses into the respective fields.

How to Use CC

Add in the email addresses to the CC field for all recipients.

 

CC and BCC

 

 

How to Use BCC

Use BCC simply by adding in the emails addresses into the relevant field.

 

CC and BCC

 

How Important is it to Use CC and BCC Correctly?

In many cases, using CC and BCC correctly is a matter of email etiquette and professionalism. However, there are occasions when using the incorrect protocol may have legal implications. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are familiar with the correct uses of both. Always remember that:

  • BCC must be used when sending out marketing emails, newsletters, or other unsolicited emails. If you share personal data (email addresses) in these cases, there may be legal implications.

  • BCC is not used when sharing sensitive information with superiors regarding the performance of coworkers, clients, partners, or anyone else. In a worst-case scenario, the person you are discussing (and who is part of the thread) could hit “reply all” and the secret nature of your message will be shared with all participants. This may also have legal implications.

 

CC and BCC — Do’s and Don’ts

There are a few things to remember when using CC and BCC. Here we look at the most important points to think about before hitting send on that all-important email:

 

DO


DON’T


Use CC when you need to ensure someone is kept in the loop. You can use CC as an FYI when you don’t necessarily need any further input from that person.


Use CC in a passive-aggressive way. If someone hasn’t replied to your email, then don’t CC the boss prematurely.


Use CC when you need to include more contacts in an email thread that is already running.


Use CC to micromanage projects or staff. Requiring the use of CC on ALL communications is stifling.


Use CC when introducing people who have requested an introduction. Doing this allows contact details to be shared without you necessarily remaining part of the conversation after the initial introduction.


Don’t use CC when you are introducing people who will be working on the same project as you. You will want to remain part of the conversation as you progress.


Use BCC when emailing individuals who want their privacy respected.


Don’t use BCC simply to sneak in a superior’s email as a method of “checking up” on someone.


Use BCC whenever sending out marketing or corporate emails to people from other companies.


Don’t use BCC when sending our marketing or corporate emails within your own company.


 

Alternatives for CC and BCC in email

CC and BCC in email are some of the oldest technologies still being used on a daily basis. While they serve their purpose in some ways, it’s important to be extremely careful that you accomplish the goals you set out for when using the tools. If you intend to BCC, take a moment to confirm you’re using BCC over CC as making a mistake can cause unneeded drama in the workplace.

 

It’s better to use a tool like Spike Groups with your frequent contacts as a way to use a business chat tool that is easier to use. If you need to loop someone else in on the conversation, you can forward an email directly to that person so you have less of a chance to make a mistake. Spike Groups is just one part of Spike’s communications system that turns your email into a chat-like instant messenger tool.

 

Check out the rest of our resource section for more great tips and tricks on email etiquette and much more. Additionally, head over to the Spike blog for more information or check out how to make your inbox your centralized workspace with Notes and Tasks.

 

CC and BCC FAQ's

CC stands for “Carbon Copy.” It’s a throwback to the days of carbon paper, where you’d create a duplicate of a document. In the email world, it’s like saying, “Hey, this is relevant to you, but you’re not the main focus here.”

BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Think of it as the covert ops of email. You’re sending a copy to someone without letting the primary recipients know. It’s your digital cloak of invisibility.

Use CC when transparency is important It’s perfect for team communications, project updates, and any situation where everyone needs to be in the know.

Opt for BCC when you need to maintain privacy. Whether you’re sending a mass email or discussing sensitive topics, BCC keeps the recipients in the dark about who else is in the loop.

Absolutely, you can mix and match. For example, you might CC your team while BCCing a supervisor who just needs to be kept informed but not actively involved.

Not necessarily. It’s all about context. If you’re using BCC to be sneaky or deceptive, that’s a no-go. But if it’s about maintaining privacy or avoiding a “Reply All” catastrophe, then BCC is your friend.

Misusing CC and BCC can land you in hot water, especially if confidential information is involved. Always think twice before hitting “send.”

Yes, they can. Overusing BCC, for instance, can trigger spam filters. So, use these features judiciously to ensure your email actually reaches its destination.

Oren Todoros
Oren Todoros Oren is a strategic thinker with over 20 years of experience in the marketing industry and is the current Head of Content Strategy at Spike. He's also the proud father of 3 beautiful daughters and a dog named Milo.

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