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Cc: and BCc: Reply Expectations

Business Email Etiquette Cc: and BCc: proper use.

Cc: stands for a courtesy copy. Back in the day, it used to indicate carbon copy — when carbon paper had to be used between pieces of paper to create copies of a typewritten document. Archaic, right?

BCc: means a blind copy. BCc is used when there is no indication on the original document that anyone else was copied. But they were.

So it is easy to see how blindly copying others without the visible recipients being aware could cause some conundrums and maybe even ethical issues. That said, there are times when using BCc makes sense.

Many wonder what is expected when your name is either in the Cc: field or you are BCc: ‘d on an email.  This is a topic that I get contacted about, so you are not alone!

Cc: and BCc: Reply Basics:

  • Cc: invites your comments, if applicable; otherwise, it is just an FYI. Only add those who need to be in the know when using Cc. Then a response is only required when you have something to add, or that is relevant to the original message. When you respond, only reply to those who need to be aware of your comments. If the others in the Cc: field will not benefit or do not need to know the content of your reply, remove their email addresses before replying.
  • If you are Cc:’d, Reply To All is rarely prudent. In many cases, comments will not apply to all involved. Things like a one-word reply, saying thank you, or confirming info that only applies to you. There are times when it is not necessary for “all” to be aware of your response. Also, refrain from using Reply to All to CYA. This approach can provide the perception that you are not a team player, is trivial, and may backfire.
  • BCc: notes you are being FYI’d without the knowledge of those noted in the To: and Cc: fields (and there may be others in the BCc:).  No reply is necessary or expected. Always think twice before using BCc: and only do so with proper intentions. Using BCc: to expose others to unrelated or sensitive emails without the recipient’s knowledge is not the sign of a true professional. Instead, you will appear to be an email tattle-tail (eTattler). This can reflect negatively on your lack of professionalism in the workplace.

Copying with Discretion

Discretion means “the ability or power to decide responsibly.” If you think about it, just about everything to do with business success has to do with discretion. Using your discretion in your email activities will make you perceived more favorably.

Minimize email volume by only replying and sending to those who are necessary to the conversation at hand. This will lead to your communications being taken more seriously and help minimize others’ unnecessary email volume.

These efforts will have the added benefit of being viewed as a courteous, efficient, and professional communicator. Which will be appreciated by all you work with.

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