What is the difference between CC and BCC? When do you use them?
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All your CC and BCC questions will be answered.
But before you go on, make sure to check out my list of best email clients.
What is CC in email?
CC stands for carbon copy, which means the recipients of your email can see who else was copied on the email and will continue to receive emails until they’re removed from CC.
CC is a way to permanently copy someone on all emails in the chain.
What is BCC in email?
BCC stands for blind carbon copy, which means the recipients of your email cannot see who else was BCC’d and they will not continue to receive emails.
BCC is a way to temporarily copy someone on one email in the chain.
The History of CC and BCC
CC and BCC originate when actual paper, in this case carbon copy paper, was used to write receipts.
Carbon copy paper typically has three layers. The first sheet is white, the second sheet is yellow, and the last sheet is pink.
Writing on the top layer copies everything to the bottom two layers.
As early as the 1950s, blind carbon copy was introduced as a way to send a letter to someone without noting the blind recipient on the original copy.
Letters were often addressed to three sets of groups:
- The primary group: who the letter was addressed to
- The secondary group: other interested parties, aka CC
- The tertiary group: hidden parties, aka BCC
Why would you use BCC instead of CC?
BCC is best used when you want someone to only see your email but none of the further responses.
An example would be receiving an introduction from someone through email. Your friend John introduces you to Abby. When you respond to the email you should move John to BCC (and thank him!) and move abby to the To field. That way John knows you connected with Abby but he won’t be bothered by your continued correspondence.
You can also use BCC to make someone aware of your response without the other party knowing. For example, you receive an email that you want your boss to know about. You can reply to the email and BCC your boss – the person who emailed you initially won’t see the BCC but your boss will be silently looped in.
Which is better CC or BCC?
CC and BCC in emails both have their place. In general CC is better because the recipients will always be copied on future emails. BCC is better for one-off exchanges when the person BCC’d only needs to see one part of the email chain.
One caveat with CCing someone is they can’t easily remove themselves, so be careful who you CC because it means signing them up to receive every email in the chain.
I use CC 90% of the time and BCC about 10% of the time.
Is BCC really hidden?
Yes, BCC is hidden. Anyone included in a BCC cannot see anyone else on the BCC list.
Can Recipients in BCC see each other?
No, recipients in BCC cannot see each other.
What happens if someone replies to a BCC email?
The initial sender of that email, and anyone CC’d, will get the reply, but anyone else who was BCC’d will not receive the reply.
Inbox providers like Microsoft will even display a message:
Your address was hidden when this message was sent. If you Reply All, everyone will now you received it.
Can you send an email with only BCC?
No, your email must always include a to recipient.