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CC vs. BCC: What’s The Difference?

Learn the difference between these forms of email

The CC and BCC fields in your messaging app are similar but serve two very different purposes. Confusing the two can sometimes lead to unfortunate or even embarrassing problems. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about these two email sending methods, explain the differences between CC and BCC, and demonstrate when each works best.

What is CC and BCC?

DC

  • It means “carbon copy”.

  • All recipients on the To and Cc lines can see each other.

  • The best option for most routine emails.

BCC

  • It means “hidden carbon copy”.

  • BCC recipients are invisible to all other recipients.

  • Convenient to hide email addresses or certain recipients.

The terms CC and BCC predate email. They date back to the days of business communications between offices, when a copy of a letter was literally made by inserting a sheet of carbon paper between it and the original when typed on a typewriter. The copy was called a carbon copy, and the top of the letter was frequently marked with a “cc: Dave Johnson” to indicate to whom the copy was being sent.

Blind carbon copying, or BCC, takes the idea of ​​the CC and makes it invisible, so the recipient of the message doesn’t know that the individual BCC also received a copy.

Use of CC and BCC in emails

DC

  • Secondary or information-only recipients go to the CC line.

  • Use it when there are no privacy issues with recipients seeing each other’s email addresses.

  • All CC recipients see all email replies.

BCC

  • If you need to protect email addresses, put all recipients on the BCC line.

  • BCC may discreetly notify a third party (such as an administrator) of an email.

  • BCC recipients only receive the initial email and are “opted out” of subsequent responses.

  • If the recipient of the BCC replies, he is exposed to everyone.

As a general rule, most routine emails should be sent with recipients in the To: and Cc: lines. Relevant recipients, or recipients who need to take action on the email, should go on the To line, while information-only recipients can go on the CC line. You can put everyone on the CC line in situations such as sending a broad communication (such as a newsletter) to multiple people at once.

The BCC line is ideal for situations where the recipients’ privacy needs to be protected. For example, if you’re emailing a lot of people who don’t know each other, you can put them all on the BCC line. You can also use BCC to allow a third party (such as an administrator) to discreetly view your email. The To and CC recipients will not know the BCC recipient.

However, there is a danger in using the BCC line in this way, as the BCC field may not behave as expected:

  • After the initial email is sent, BCC recipients are removed from all subsequent replies, so they only see the first message.
  • If a BCC recipient chooses Answer everyone, each recipient of the email will see that person appear in the thread. If you BCC an admin and the other recipients didn’t know that person was in the thread, this can be a breach of trust and is sometimes considered bad email etiquette.

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