CC vs BCC: What are the Differences?

CC and BCC are two options to add third-party recipients to an email. Unlike regular recipients in the “To” field, CC and BCC recipients are usually the secondary audience of the email and are not expected to take action unless otherwise specified. As such, there are separate connotations and implications that come with assigning a contact as a CC or BCC recipient.

CC vs BCC comparison

Abbreviation for carbon copyAbbreviation for blind carbon copy
Other recipients can see CC recipientsOther recipients cannot see BCC recipients
Receives all “Reply All” responsesDoes not receive any responses
Most commonly used for small group emailsMost commonly used for mass emails

What does CC mean?

CC is an abbreviation for “carbon copy.” Recipients who are added to this line receive an exact copy of the email sent to recipients in the “To” line, and other recipients can see that the sender has added them. When someone responds to that email using “Reply All”, the CC recipients will also receive that response. 

The CC and “To” fields function similarly, but there are important distinctions between how they should be used. A recipient should be added to the “To” field if they are expected to take some type of action or respond with information. On the other hand, a recipient should be added to the CC field if they are a stakeholder that needs to be kept in the loop or someone with authority who can ensure other recipients take the necessary followup measures.

The term “carbon copy” is a holdover from the days of the typewriter. Prior to the advent of email and copy machines, additional copies of a letter were created on typewriters using carbon paper to transfer the type to a second sheet of paper as each letter was struck.  

What does BCC mean?

BCC is an abbreviation for blind carbon copy. Recipients who are added to this line also receive an exact copy of the email sent to recipients in the “To” line, but other recipients cannot see BCC recipients. Also unlike CC recipients, BCC recipients do not receive any future responses to the original email.

In many situations, it’s worthwhile to be transparent with all recipients about who is receiving the email. However, there are some situations where it’s appropriate to use the BCC line for more discretion. Any time a recipient needs to be added to an email correspondence without other recipients’ knowledge, they should be added to the BCC line.

CC and BCC examples

When composing an email, it may be confusing to know if a recipient should go on the CC line or the BCC line. In most cases it comes down to whether or not other recipients should be aware that the copied recipient has been added.

For example, someone who wants to introduce a new contact to recipients on an existing email thread may want to do so by adding them to the CC line. On the other hand, a business sending a newsletter to a mailing list would want to put all recipients on the BCC line because it would be inappropriate and distracting for the entire recipient list to be visible to everyone.

If you’re looking to send mass emails to a mailing list, consider adopting email marketing software instead of manually using BCC.

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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