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November 6th, 2020

When to Use CC in an Email

When to Use CC in an Email

When it comes to working collaboratively, there are some things no one teaches you. Take, for example, the CC option in an email. Writing emails is a necessary skill for any job, but no one ever teaches you how. And yet, not knowing proper email etiquette can make you appear less competent.

In most jobs, you'll likely receive a few dozen emails a day, and you may have to send some emails to yourself. Knowing who to CC and BCC, as well as when, is essential email etiquette. The communications with your co-workers and superiors will heavily influence their perceptions of you at work.

Where does the term "CC" originate?

Often when technology evolves, parts of the old system transition into the new. Before computers, workers would type office memos on carbon copy or CC paper, creating an automatic second copy of the memo that could be sent to someone else.

Today, when users type out an email, they can copy as many recipients in the CC section as they would like.

When should you use the CC email option?

The CC option is useful, but it's important to use it the right way. When employees misuse their CC option, they risk spamming their co-workers.

There are a few times when using the CC is necessary:

  1. To keep managers or superiors up-to-date
  2. To update team members on a project
  3. When two parties need an introduction, adding both in the CC gives them a chance to connect and continue the conversation privately

How many people should you CC?

It's bad practice to go overboard with CCing. While you can CC up to 100 people, in theory, you shouldn't. Having more than ten people in the CC section of the email is distracting for any recipient. Ideally, there should be no more than 4-5 people CC'd.

When you need to keep more than ten people in the loop, consider using a mail list or mail group.

Times to Avoid Using CC

Other times it is better not to use the CC option. Here are a few examples:

Avoid spam

Corporate spam is a common problem, and employees can waste hours of their time reading unnecessary emails and memos. The more time people spend reading up on information not related to their job, the less time they spend on their tasks. While using the CC option, always consider whether each recipient needs to receive that particular email.

Don't CC without consent

It is in bad taste to CC people without their permission. Consider a scenario where two co-workers are talking over email. Since it is a direct message, it is a private conversation between two people. Now, if one person CC'd a third party, it would be a colossal misstep.

If you want to CC another employee to a thread, asking both parties for consent beforehand is proper email etiquette.

Only CC to inform

The primary purpose of CC'ing is to keep people in the loop. When you CC people on an email, they read it and move on. If you want a recipient to respond, you should put them in the 'To' field and not the CC.

A lot of people make the mistake of listing one person as the primary and all others in the CC section. Instead, sort them on a different level. Keep viewers in the CC and responders in the 'To' field.

Stay professional

Office politics is always a problem. A petty move employees make is using the CC to make a point. They will CC a boss or manager in an angry email or complaint. Using email to embarrass someone is unprofessional.

CC'ing the boss

One practice you see in the office is employees CC'ing their boss in every email, and this is a wrong decision on a few levels. First, surveys show 50 percent of people mistrust co-workers who regularly CC their boss on emails. Second, no boss wants their inbox full of useless mail. Employees often think this is a proactive approach. But, it is not, and it erodes trust in the workplace.

When should you use the BCC email option?

BCC means Blind CC. Recipients added in the BCC are not visible to other email recipients. So, the people in the To and CC cannot see the people in the BCC section. Often, this space is reserved for superiors or HR. It can also be used when you want to share information privately and keep email addresses hidden.

Overall, you should use:

  • 'To' for primary recipients who need to take action in response to an email
  • 'CC' for viewers who need to be kept in the loop
  • 'BCC' for private viewers you want to keep hidden

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