Pro Tips / September 10, 2014

To CC or to BCC? That is the question…

Emails are a part of daily life for any college student. When sending emails to large groups, bound to happen weather it is a major project, study group, or even out in the business world at a full time career, it is important to know about the CC and BCC buttons.

What are the CC and BCC buttons, anyway? They stand for Carbon Copy and Blind Carbon Copy, respectively and they are a way to manage who is seeing what in an email. Unless you were making copies prior to 1959 when the Xerox 914 introduced, you’ve probably never made a true carbon copy on carbon paper. The name is another holdover from an earlier time, like the floppy drive icon you click to save a paper. Have you ever used a floppy drive?

In an email, the CC indicates those who are to receive a copy of a message addressed primarily to someone else. Everyone who has received an email can see who was CC’d. BCC is similar, but does not show the recipients of the email. If you BCC someone, they get a copy, but are not shown on any other recipient’s copy, including any others BCC’d. If you want to be polite and respectful (and who doesn’t?) you should always mention if you bring someone into an email thread. You’ve probably encountered this before when someone mentions that they have CC’d so and so one this or that. In your EMU Gmail account, the “To” field recipients are the primary audience of the message, CC field recipients are others whom the author wishes to publicly inform of the message, and BCC field recipients are those privately being informed of the communication.

So why BCC, one might ask? Bcc is best used to maintain the privacy of your communications. If you used the “To” field, or CC to list lots of different recipients, everybody on that list has their email exposed to everyone else. While this can be great for small teams or partnerships, this can cause problems when people you’re emailing are unfamiliar with one another. Not only does it expose private email addresses, it opens the door for a problem we’ve all had; the dreaded reply all. You see multiple responses in your email they really could have simply been between two people, neither of which are you. How annoying! With BCC you can avoid being or facilitating “that person.”

Another good use of BCC might be if you want to email someone in your workgroup, and keeping others informed how things are coming along, but want to silently let your supervisor know what you’re sending out. Put the main recipient in the “To” field; CC the other members of the group, and BCC the supervisor. It’s that easy!


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