What is CC and BCC in Email?

Despite the fact that both CC and BCC have been around since the inception of email, there’s still plenty of confusion as to what they’re for and how to use them properly. Even more significantly, the rise of instant messaging and team chat apps has seen the purpose of these two fields nestled at the top of your email composition window increasingly forgotten.


Well, don’t worry, if you’re in the dark about what CC and BCC mean in email composition, then we’ve got all the information you need right here. Read on and discover what these terms mean, how to use them correctly, and get yourself a few useful tips and tricks on email etiquette at the same time.



When Typing an Email, What Do CC and BCC Stand For?

In truth, the answer is very simple, and both terms reference an old method used to duplicate documents. Here’s what they 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 on, the carbon paper transferred the pen strokes 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, 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 fulfils its own 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.

Email Etiquette Tips and Tricks

Today, when asking what CC and BCC in email are, it is important to consider email etiquette. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you identify when to use each one and when not to.



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.



? 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 on everything from professional mindfulness to improving productivity.