CC and BCC in Emails: How to Use Both Like a Pro

March 20, 2024
Written by
Melissa Zehner
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Jesse Sumrak
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

CC and BCC in Emails: How to Use Both Like a Pro

There you are, feeling snazzy about the email you’ve just written. It’s articulate, charming, and professional. Now, you just have to send it. But should you use CC or BCC? After all, you don’t want your emails going to the spam folder.

And which recipients go in which section? You don’t want your message overlooked because an email blunder takes center stage. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll walk you through: 

  • What CC and BCC are
  • How to effectively use CC and BCC at work
  • How to avoid common missteps with each
  • What’s better than BCC if you need to send mass emails

Let’s dive in.

What is CC in email?

CC is an abbreviation for carbon copy, which hearkens back to the days of using carbon paper to make copies of handwritten letters. Luckily, you can now send someone a copy of your message without your hand cramping. The digital version of a carbon copy, CC enables you to send a copy of your email to parties in addition to your primary recipient. 

Here’s how it works: CC recipients get an exact copy of your email and reply-all responses that follow. They’ll also see other parties copied on the email.

When to use CC (and when not to) 

CC is most often used to keep people informed or facilitate group conversations over email. Here are a few tips for using CC in email to streamline your digital communications: 

1. Use CC to keep all parties informed

You could send a bunch of separate emails to everyone about a project or piece of information or save time and send a single email to the whole group by using CC. 

All parties included in the TO and CC fields can view the email, reply to the group by using reply all, or respond to you, the sender, individually.

2. Add a new participant to an email thread in progress by using CC

Sometimes you need to add another voice as a conversation evolves. To include a team member on an email thread in progress, just add their name into the CC field when you send a reply. This enables the person added to review the thread and respond to everyone in the TO or CC fields. 

However, a word of caution before using CC to add someone to an email thread: Confirm that all information and attachments in the thread are acceptable to share to avoid compromising any private or proprietary information.

3. Don’t CC everyone in your office on your emails

Being informed or consulted is great but drowning in emails isn’t. So don’t get into the habit of CCing the whole staff on messages that don’t require their attention. 

Use your judgment: if someone is crucial to the conversation or needs the information you’re sharing, include them in CC. Spare anyone else who doesn’t meet the criteria to be respectful of their time and attention. 

What is BCC in email?

BCC means blind carbon copy—it’s similar to CC except that the copied parties aren’t visible to others in the TO field or people blind carbon copied. Only the sender can see the full list of people included in the email.

Note that BCC recipients can view the original email sent, but not the replies unless they’ve reentered it into the BCC field or moved to CC. Only those listed in CC can see and respond to threads.

When to use BCC (and when not to)

Let’s look at two of the most common uses of BCC in email, followed by the most common misuse.

1. Use BCC to send to a group of people while maintaining confidentiality

If you need to share information with a group while keeping their identities or email addresses private, use BCC. This protects the identity and confidentiality of anyone listed in BCC. 

Using BCC for mass emails saves time and energy while allowing you to share your message with a large group. Just make sure to double-check that you’re using BCC and not CC before you hit that send button.

2. Make email introductions using BCC

BCC is helpful for making email introductions when one or both parties isn’t expecting it, such as when a colleague requests a referral to a vendor or contractor you know. 

By listing both parties’ email addresses in the BCC field, you can successfully introduce them without compromising their contact information. Then, each recipient can choose whether to continue the conversation and reveal their contact information. 

3. Don’t use BCC for digital eavesdropping

You’ve likely heard a few horror stories of someone adding a boss or human resource manager in BCC without the primary recipient’s knowledge. Unless you encounter harassment, abuse, or other criminal behavior, avoid using BCC this way. 

At the very least, you’ll compromise trust—and depending on your country’s or company’s policies, you may expose yourself to compliance or legal issues. For example, using the BCC field can be interpreted as sharing information without consent, which can be a violation of email privacy laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation or Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

BCC vs. CC email: primary differences

When you're sending an email, deciding whether to use CC or BCC depends on the level of privacy you wish to maintain and the nature of the email's content. Both options serve the purpose of including additional recipients, but they do so in fundamentally different ways.

1. Visibility of recipients

  • CC: Everyone in the To, CC, and even BCC list can see the email addresses listed in the CC field. This transparency fosters an open environment for communication but requires discretion to avoid sharing email addresses with too broad an audience.
  • BCC: The email addresses of BCC recipients are hidden from everyone else on the email, including those in the To and CC fields. This option is ideal for maintaining privacy and confidentiality among recipients.'

2. Purpose

CC is typically used to:

  • Keep relevant parties informed.
  • Facilitate open communication among team members or project stakeholders.
  • Acknowledge someone's interest or involvement without requiring their active participation.

BCC is typically used to:

  • Send emails to large groups without disclosing recipients' email addresses.
  • Prevent 'Reply All' chains that could annoy or inconvenience others.
  • Discreetly include someone in the communication without alerting other recipients.

3. Email etiquette and best practices

  • CC:
    • Use sparingly to avoid cluttering inboxes.
    • Ensure all CC'd recipients are relevant to the email conversation.
  • BCC:
    • Ideal for mass emails or when sending sensitive information that requires privacy.
    • Be cautious not to expose all recipients’ email addresses inadvertently.

4. Response expectations

  • CC: Recipients are generally not expected to respond unless the email content directly involves them or solicits their feedback.
  • BCC: Since BCC recipients are invisible to others, they are typically not expected to reply. If they do, their response is usually directed only to the sender.

CC and BCC in email: when to use which?

Both features serve to send copies of your email to additional recipients, but they are used in different contexts based on the level of privacy you wish to maintain. Here's how to know when to use BCC vs. CC in email:

Use CC when:

  • Transparency: You want all recipients to know who else has received the email. It’s useful for keeping relevant parties in the loop.
  • Collaboration: When sending emails to a group that might work together or need to reply to all, CC is appropriate. It encourages open dialogue among all included.
  • Acknowledgment: Sometimes, you might CC someone to simply acknowledge their interest or potential input in a conversation, without expecting active participation.

Examples of when to use CC:

  • Sending a project update to your team, where everyone’s input might be valuable.
  • Emailing a client and including a colleague who is also working on the project.
  • When you’re making an introduction between parties and want both to see each other’s contact information.

Use BCC when:

  • Privacy is Important: BCC hides the email addresses of the BCC recipients from the To and CC recipients. This is crucial when sending emails to large groups who do not know each other.
  • Preventing Reply-All Mishaps: To avoid unnecessary replies from going to all recipients, especially in large group communications.
  • Sending Mass Emails: When emailing a newsletter or announcement to various recipients who do not necessarily know each other, BCC keeps their email addresses private.

Examples of when to use BCC:

  • Sending a company-wide announcement without revealing all employees' email addresses.
  • When emailing a group of contacts who do not know each other, such as an invitation to a webinar or event.
  • To discreetly copy someone on an email without other recipients knowing.

Optimize your email marketing with Twilio SendGrid

Twilio SendGrid enables you to customize and design emails, organize your contacts, grow your email lists, avoid spam filters, and track email metrics. SendGrid also helps you set up and safeguard your mass emails when using CC and BCC for email marketing, keeping recipients’ identity and information confidential unless they choose to reveal it. 

Sign up for SendGrid’s free account and start sending professional, confidential emails today.

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