Home / Definitions / Carbon Copy

Carbon Copy

Kyle Guercio
Last Updated May 24, 2021 8:04 am

A carbon copy (CC) is a duplicate of a text document. The term was first coined for physical duplications of text but is now most commonly used in reference to emails.

Carbon copy in email

Carbon copy refers to a duplicate of an email sent to other people aside from the primary recipient. The primary recipient’s email address is entered into the “To:” field, whereas the recipients’ addresses who will receive the carbon copy duplicate of the email are entered into the “Cc:” field.

The determination between the two fields is that the email is intended for the primary recipient but still contains information that’s relevant to the additional parties. This removes the time-consuming task of sending the same email separately to multiple recipients. It also allows the carbon copy addressees to contribute to the email thread following the original message. This practice is commonly referred to as “CCing” someone on email.

An alternative form of a carbon copy in emails is called a blind carbon copy (BCC). With a blind carbon copy, all other recipients of the email are private. This is typically used when sending impersonal emails to a large list of people who would not benefit from knowing each other. It’s a method for respecting people’s privacy and unnecessary ongoing email chains.

When to use Cc:

CC and BCC are often used interchangeably as all the recipients will receive the same email. However, the general practice is to CC people on the email who are not expected to take any action or reply to the email. But they are still free to do so if they deem it valuable or necessary.

Carbon copy history

Before there were digital means for making copies of text documents, including email and printers, carbon paper was used to make duplicates. This process involved placing a sheet of carbon paper between two sheets of regular paper. Pressure applied to the top piece of paper with a writing utensil would transfer the text to the bottom sheet from the pigment provided by the carbon paper.

This method is still sometimes used today. The most common instance is when filling out checks in a checkbook to keep track of transactions. However, carbonless copy paper is now a more common alternative. The back of the paper itself is coated with a micro-encapsulated dye or ink that can transfer pigment to a sheet underneath.