Cc & Bcc in Email: What Do They Mean & When to Use Them

Ludovic Armand
by Ludovic Armand

Emails have been around for a really long time now. They were originally created as the digital version of mail and borrowed some terminology and core concept from it. Some of these terms that are coming from the paper era are CC and BCC. If you ever wondered:

What does it mean to CC someone in an email?

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore what CC means in email and how to use it.

the meaning of CC and BCC in email

Let’s dive into it.

What Does CC Mean in Email?

CC in an email

CC means carbon copy. It's a field in the header of an email that lets you to send a copy of an email to other recipients. When someone is in CC, they can see the email thread, recipients, including other people in CC.

It's a good way to keep other people informed about what is discussed in an email. However, it’s important to know that, unlike the regular recipients of an email, the content of an email is generally not addressed to CC recipients and are not necessarily involved in the conversation.

For example, you may contact a potential client via email and want to keep someone else in your team informed about how things are going with that lead. In that case, adding your colleague in the CC might be a good option as they will be able to see the email thread, but their input won’t be necessary for the conversation.

You can learn more about the history of CC and BCC here.

What Does BCC Mean in Email?

BCC in an email

BCC stands for blind carbon copy. It is very similar to the CC feature, but with one major exception:

When you BCC someone on an email, other recipients of the email won’t be able to see it.

This means that the recipients in the "To" and "CC" fields won’t know that you included a BCC recipient in the email.

It is most used when you want to send a copy of an email to someone but don’t want the recipient of an email to know about it. It could be useful if you need to keep someone informed without revealing their identity to others.

The BCC will receive emails just like any other recipients of the email, but their presence won’t be known by anyone else than you and them.

You should always use BCC with care as it comes with some ethical implications around privacy, transparency, trust, honesty, integrity, and even compliance.

What is the Difference Between CC and BCC?

The main difference between CC and BCC in emails is that depending on the one used, other recipients might not be aware that the copy has been sent to someone.

When you CC someone on an email, all recipients will be able to see who received the email and their email addresses. CC is used when you want multiple people to be informed and don’t mind other’s knowing about it.

On the other hand, when you BCC someone, their email address is hidden from other recipients. Recipients are unaware of the presence of BCCs unless they have been mentioned by the sender. BCC is used when you want to discreetly let someone be informed about a conversation without the other recipients knowing.

CC promotes transparency, trust, and in a certain way collaboration among recipients, while BCC maintains confidentiality and privacy. While CC recipients are not expected to actively participate in the conversation, they easily can add their input at any moment. However, BCC recipients remain passive observers.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

CC (Carbon Copy) BCC (Blind Carbon Copy)
Visibility All recipients can see each other BCC recipients are hidden from other recipients
Recipient Awareness All recipients are aware of each other Only BCC recipients and sender are aware of all recipients
Communication Dynamics CC recipients aren’t active participants in the conversation but can interact BCC recipients are passive observers
Purpose Used to keep multiple people informed and sometimes involved Used to privately include someone without others' knowledge
Transparency Promotes transparency and collaboration Can raise concerns about transparency and trust
Privacy Does not maintain recipient privacy Maintains recipient privacy by hiding their presence
Ethical Considerations May raise ethical concerns in a few situations Raise ethical concerns and requires careful consideration

When to Use CC

When to use CC in an email

CC is a useful tool in your email arsenal. It’s quick and easy to use and provides a good way to improve communication. But from a technical point of view, it is almost identical to the “To” field. The difference lies in the email “conventions”. The “To” field is for recipients the email is originally addressed to and the CC field is for people you want to be informed or want in the loop.

Here are some examples of when you should use CC.

Share Information Contained in an Email With Someone

CC is a good way to share information with people who are not the primary recipients of an email but want them to be able to see a conversation. CC allows them to stay informed and provides them with context.

However, as we’ll see below, there are some situations where CC is not the best option to use.

Introduce Someone New in a Conversation

When you want to introduce a new person to an existing email conversation, CC should be used. By CC'ing the new participant, you include them in the conversation and let them see the previous discussions.

This way, they will be able to quickly catch up on the context and contribute to the conversation.

This use case also applies when you’re emailing someone to introduce them to another person, as the CC’ed person isn’t the person the email is originally addressed to.

When to Use BCC?

When to use BCC in an email

Unlike CC, BCC has some specific use cases that couldn’t be replaced by the “To” field. And since the BCC field is hidden from all other recipients, the BCC comes with some advantages.

Email a Large Group and Keep Privacy

This is probably the most common use case for the BCC field in email. Imagine you’re sending an email to all participants of an event you’re organizing, but don’t want all recipients to know the email address of each other. You could add all recipients in BCC and your email address in the “To” field. This way, everyone will receive a copy of the email, but won’t be able to see all the other recipients.

Send a Copy of an Email to Another Email Address Without Giving It to the Recipient

Using BCC is a good option if you want to keep a copy of an email in one of your other email addresses without giving it to the recipient.

When Should You Not Use CC or BCC?

When not to use CC or BCC in an email

CC and BCC aren’t all good. They also come with their downside, like the inability to easily exchange with colleagues inside an email thread. Let's take a look at situations when you should think twice before using CC or BCC.

You Might Be Overloading People With Emails

We all know how overwhelming it can be to be overloaded with emails and CC’ing people in almost all your emails is a surefire way to fill someone else’s inbox.

Sending every single email to many can make it difficult for people to prioritize their messages and result in the opposite of what you were trying to achieve; keeping them informed and in the loop.

It's best to be mindful and avoid inundating others with unnecessary emails.

You Don’t Have People's Consent

Respecting privacy is crucial in all communication methods, and it certainly applies to emails.

Before adding new recipients to a conversation, you should make sure that the recipients accept that you add someone.

There might be sensitive information in the thread that the other person wouldn’t want to share.

You Expect a Response or Action

If you're hoping for a response or direct action from a recipient, then CC’ing them isn’t your best option. Instead, you should include them in the "To" field.

When you CC someone, they will generally assume that no action is required from them and that they should get involved in the exchanges. To avoid confusion and set clear expectations, you should always put people who need to take action in the primary recipient field.

What Are Your Options Instead of CC in Email?

While CC is a great way to add people to the loop, we’ve seen that it’s easy to overload your colleagues if you indulge in CC’ing too much.

A great alternative to the copy carbon field in email using a collaborative email client like Missive.

Share emails, chat inside them with a colleague in Missive without CC and BCC

Missive is a shared inbox and email management software that let you easily share emails with other team members and discuss with them in a conversation.


What is the Difference Between CC and BCC and Example?

CC is a way to send a copy of an email to someone who's not the main recipient. On the other hand, BBC is used to send a copy of an email to someone without the other recipients knowing.

People that are CC'ed will receive replies to the email when someone reply to all, as opposed to the people who are BCC'ed.

Should I Use CC or BCC in Email?

You should use CC (carbon copy) when you want to include other recipients who may be interested in or relevant to the email's content, without requiring a response from them. The CC recipients' email addresses will be visible to all other recipients. You should use BCC (blind carbon copy) when you want to secretly include additional recipients without disclosing their email addresses to the other recipients. BCC recipients will still be able to respond and reply to all, but their email addresses will remain hidden.

Use CC when:

  • You want to inform other relevant parties for transparency
  • The additional recipients do not need to respond or take action

Use BCC when:

  • You want to send the same email to multiple recipients privately
  • You don't want the additional recipients to be visible to each other
  • You want to be discreet and possibly more polite

What is the purpose of CC in email?

CC is used in email to send a copy of an email to a secondary recipient that may benefit from the email's content, without having to participate in the discussion.

By adding recipients to the CC field, you can:

  1. Keep other relevant people informed, even if they are not the primary recipient. This can be useful for transparency and information sharing within your company.
  2. Alert others who may find the email useful or important, even if they don't need to take direct action. For example, you may CC your manager on an email to a client, just to make them aware.
  3. Add recipients who you want to "carbon copy" on the communication, without explicitly addressing the email to them. The recipients in the "To" field are still considered the primary audience.
  4. Make it clear that CC recipients are secondary recipients who do not require a direct response. This avoids any potential confusion about whom the email is actually meant for.
  5. Build an email trail within an organization by including relevant parties in communications. This can be useful to track discussions later.
Ludovic Armand

Digital Marketing Lead at Missive
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