Originally known as Carbon Copy back in the day of typewriters, Cc: is now known as Courtesy Copy. So, when is it appropriate to use the Cc: feature in your business email?
Use Cc: with Discretion
From what I see, using Cc: is a discretionary call that some are unable to make. Specifically when I notice that politics or wanting to “CYA” comes into play when using this feature.
Using the Cc: field is up to one’s better judgment based on the specific situation at hand. What is “appropriate” seems to be subjective based on what the Sender is trying to accomplish.
As I am sure you know, the most common use is to keep folks involved in a particular issue on the same page. By Cc’ing them, they are then considered informed but are not required to reply.
Use Cc: Selectively
What you do not do is Cc: contacts on a reply to an email sent to you. Unless they need to be brought into or made aware of the current conversation.
And you mention that in your reply. “I’m Cc’ing, Jane and Jim because…” The original Sender needs to understand why you did so.
Cc: should not be overused or abused as a way to FYI everyone and their brother simply because you want to FYI. Unless they are specifically involved in that particular conversation, event or issue. Unless it is important that they be informed, do not Cc: them.
Bringing in 3rd Parties
I’m a big proponent of down-editing your replies on ongoing conversations. However, when you bring in third parties after the fact by Cc’ing them, you risk the original Sender’s message being misinterpreted. They don’t have the full thread to get caught up.
It is situations like this it is best to start a new email, summarizing what has been discussed thus far and Cc: those you want to bring into the conversation.
Otherwise, a conference call or in-person meeting may be the better alternative. Email is not supposed to replace all other communications.
If you Cc: for political reasons alone, such as trying to make points with your boss/supervisor or by “e-tattling”, you may not get the response you desire. Taking this approach is not one of a team player.
Once you go in this direction, don’t be surprised when the others involved do the same to you. You can end up looking petty and unprofessional. Always stop and consider if Cc’ing certain parties will be received positively before doing so.
With the above in mind, also be selective when using “Reply to All“. Think about if “all” need to be involved in the reply.
One last tip…
It is always prudent to remove any recipients that are not necessary to, or interested in, the ongoing conversation. Review all addresses (To: Cc: BCc:) that your reply will be sent to.
Now that you know how to use the Cc: field you won’t be clogging others inboxes with irrelevant, petty or CYA email that does not apply to them.