What's The Difference Between CC and BCC In Email? Your Complete Guide!

By Spike Team, November 09, 2020

Wondering what’s the difference between CC and BCC? Well, it’s pretty simple!  CC stands for “Carbon Copy” and BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy”. However, there’s much more to these email functions that at first meets the eye. So to help you get your email etiquette up to scratch, here we explore CC and BCC so you can learn how to use them correctly!


CC and BCC Explained

CC and BCC


CC and BCC are two fields that sit next to or below the “To” field at the top of any new message you compose in your inbox. All three are used to add the email addresses of the people you wish to send your message to. However, they differ significantly in their usage.





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


What is the Difference Between CC and BCC?

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.


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.


The BCC field is, in essence, an enhanced version of CC and fulfills 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.



When to Use CC and BCC

Now that we understand what CC and BCC mean in email, it’s a good idea to learn about when you should use them. Again, it’s pretty simple to ascertain which of the fields to use when sending out emails, however, you should always double-check you have used them correctly, particularly when you are dealing with a large number of email addresses.


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.


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.



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.


The Difference Between 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:




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 some of the oldest technology 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 and BCC are two fields that you will find next to or below the “To” field when you compose an email. They are used to add individual or multiple email addresses when you want to keep people in the loop without expecting a reply. Using CC will show your recipients the email addresses you have included, while using BCC will keep them secret.

CC stands for carbon copy—basically, sending a “carbon copy” of your message to the email addresses you have added to the field. BCC stands for blind carbon copy, allowing you to send a “carbon copy” of your message while keeping the email addresses you have added private.

CC and BCC work in the same way as your “To” field. However, email etiquette and professional communication conventions dictate that they are used in different ways. Use the CC field for secondary recipients who may only need the message for reference. Use the BCC field for tertiary recipients when you want to keep the email addresses confidential.  

CC and BCC were taken from letter writing conventions from the last century. CC stands for carbon copy, alluding to the piece of carbon paper that allowed you to copy a letter as you were writing it. BCC stands for blind carbon copy, an extension that allows you to “copy” people into the message without sharing their email addresses.

Choosing when to use CC and BCC in your emails is relatively simple. CC should be used whenever you want to include secondary recipients when you do not require a direct reply. BCC should be used in the same way, except using this field will keep any email addresses confidential. Additionally, BCC is often used to send marketing emails or newsletters using a mailing list.

The BCC field will hide any email addresses you enter from your intended recipients. The CC field, however, will not. It is highly important to ensure you use the correct field when you wish to keep email addresses confidential and maintain security


Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.