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How to properly use CC and BCC when sending emails.
© Nopparat Jaikla |
Tech tips

Email etiquette – When to CC or BCC someone

Whether you’re messaging a colleague or a friend on the other side of the world, email carries a formality that text messages lack. For example, you wouldn’t ask your boss for a raise through text, would you? Don’t answer that question.

Sometimes you send a message and find a mistake or forget to add something and wish you could take it back. Under certain circumstances, you can unsend an email and have another crack at it. Gmail, Outlook and some third-party email services have this option. Tap or click here for instructions on taking back that message.

As with group texting, email etiquette is essential when messaging more than one person at once. There are some things to keep in mind to convey your message to a group and protect your recipients’ privacy. To CC or BCC? That is the question we’re here to answer.

CC vs. BCC

If you’re sending a message to a small group of people who know each other, you can usually just put their email addresses in the To field. Want to invite some close friends to happy hour after work? This is one way to do it.

All recipients will receive the message and see each others’ email addresses. By putting all their emails in the To field, you are making it clear that anyone can respond to you or the group by hitting the reply-all button.

There are times when you don’t need everyone to respond or don’t want to share people’s addresses. That’s where CC and BCC come in.

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When to CC

CC, or carbon copy, is a way to add recipients to a thread who don’t necessarily need to take action and reply. Everyone in the thread will see each other’s email addresses and have the option to hit reply all if required.

It’s a good idea to call out a group message in the introduction to the email so that your recipients know that others are seeing the message.

There are many cases when a CC is appropriate. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you want to update a colleague or manager but don’t want to embarrass the colleague, CC can help. Put the manager in the To field and CC the colleague.
  • If someone asks to be kept in the loop, CC them when sending out updates about a project or event. For example, if you are working on something with a colleague and the IT department wants to know how it’s coming along, CC them when sending information to your colleague.
  • If someone is out of the office and you’re covering for them, you can CC them when you send updates that involve their work.

Sometimes you may be tempted to CC, but shouldn’t:

  • If you are expecting a response from someone, make sure to address them directly.
  • Don’t use CC to send passive-aggressive reminders or corrections. Message them directly if someone made a mistake and you want them to know.
  • If you’re adding a new recipient to an email thread, don’t do so without the consent of other recipients.

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When to BCC

BCC, or blind carbon copy, lets you send a message to a group of recipients without revealing their email addresses to each other.

Here are some suggestions for using BCC:

  • If you’re sending out invitations to an event, you can BCC as many recipients as you want without worrying about exposing their contact information.
  • If you run a service or website that uses a newsletter, use BCC to keep your clients/customers up to date.
  • When sending any message to a large group of people, you might want to BCC the recipients. This will help to avoid large, annoying threads. It would help if you also gave a heads up in this case, so people know that others are seeing the message.

BCC, by its nature, can be interpreted as sneaky. So keep this in mind when using it. Here are some times to avoid using BCC:

  • Don’t use BCC for personal emails. This is akin to letting someone eavesdrop on a private phone conversation.
  • BCC should be avoided in the work environment. People talk, and if they find out you are sneaking in recipients to messages, this can hurt your professional reputation.
  • Don’t BCC someone to show them an email thread. For example, if you recommend a friend to your boss for a job, don’t BCC your friend. They can accidentally hit reply all and message your boss. And if your boss finds out that you were showing your exchange to your friend, things could go badly for you.

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