E-mail Etiquette: Cc & Bcc – Which to use and why

by EPI Staff on April 8, 2009

Q: How should Bcc be used when emailing? It seems like it could be dangerous and deceptive.

A: You’re right to be wary and seek clarification on this one. The Cc (carbon copy) function allows the sender to send a copy of the email to someone other than the primary recipient of the email. When you use this function the primary recipient can see that another person was sent a copy of the email. Bcc (blind carbon copy) allows the sender to send a copy of the email to someone without the primary recipient knowing. It is a function that is deceptive by nature, and we recommend you be extremely careful with how you use it. One useful way to use the Bcc function is when you are sending out a mass email and do not wish each recipient to be able to view the entire list of recipients. By using Bcc this way you are protecting recipients’ email addresses from being shared. When in doubt use the Cc function and let the primary recipient know why you’ve Cc’d the other person. “Jim, I’d like to have the materials ready to go by Friday. As you can see I’ve Cc’d my assistant, Katherine, on this email so she is aware of our proposed deadline and can be ready to ship the materials.”

For more on business etiquette, check out Peter Post’s column at The Boston Globe or Peter Post and Peggy Post’s book The Etiquette Advantage in Business 2nd Edition.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Safe CC'er March 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Also, if you want to pass the email along to another colleague, you can always forward it to them later. It accomplishes the task and keeps you from that person foolishly replying-all when they really just want to respond to you about what an idiot the other person on the email is.

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cw August 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Using bcc to hide the boss’s email address when sending an email to a colleague is very rude. One, the recipient will most likely find out that the boss was in the loop of the email and two, it either creates new tension or raises it to an extra level.

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Skip December 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I was appalled by your dismissing use of the bcc field as rude. I couldn’t disagree more! Is it any more graceful to allow friends’ and associates’ email addresses, some private and guarded, to circulate around the internet to be used and abused by anyone? The equivalent would be to publish one’s private address book — unlisted phone numbers and private house addresses — in the newspaper. One simply doesn’t treat one’s friends that way… not if one hopes to keep them. Respect others privacy! Use the bcc field AND delete the strings of addresses in received email before you forward a joke or cartoon or comment around the globe. If you don’t know the end user if any information sent (and modern technology makes that impossible) guard those you cherish from the unknown. Anything else is simply careless. The TRUE Emily Post would have known this instinctively.

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Jack April 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

Amen!

I, too, was appalled at the advice in this column. (“Be wary” of using Bcc?! Really?) Exactly the opposite advice is true: ALWAYS use Bcc unless you’re SURE the recipients already know each other.

If it’s important that each recipient knows who else is reading the message, then do it the old-fashioned way: put a list of recipients NAMES (not email addresses) in the body of the message below your “signature.”

This was my first visit to this site. I hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I just can’t stay here when there are so many other sources available on the Internet. It’s unlikely I’ll be coming back. Sorry. :(

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Nina April 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Dear Skip and Jack,

I’m not sure why you disagree so strongly with this note, as it says exactly what you say:

“One useful way to use the Bcc function is when you are sending out a mass email and do not wish each recipient to be able to view the entire list of recipients. By using Bcc this way you are protecting recipients’ email addresses from being shared.”

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ericon March 18, 2012 at 8:43 pm

very nice website ilearn many things

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dsorceres June 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

totally confused about the whole thing, hell if I send you and email and have everyone else responding to it then who the heck do I cc or bcc?????? HELP……….CAN I HAVE THE DO’S AND DON’T PLEASE…………………….LOL

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Alicia June 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

Only when absolutely needed reply all.
CC if people should be seeing who the rest of teh email is to. BCC is blind carbon copy and keeps list private

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Joanna June 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

To my understanding, BCC is acceptable to use, but IMO it’s a bit “sneaky” – meaning that the recipient of your email is thinking that perhaps a conversation is only between yourself and him/her, but in fact there could be any number of other individuals silently reading. Thus, I would REALLY limit its use to situations where it MUST be used; otherwise, put the other people on CC so that the recipient at least has a heads up as to who is privy to the information being discussed.

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Jody June 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

The above suggestions are useful but I’d like to add something. Quite often an email is sent to an entire group where everybody is aware a group is receiving it (for example, the announcements in a couple clubs I belong to). The sender puts his/her own email address in the To field but puts everybody else’s email address in the bcc field. That allows everybody to get the announcements, but keeps all email addresses private.

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