What is the Difference Between CC and BCC?

Updated on April 22, 2016

Addressing with CC and BCC

This is a picture of what CC and BCC mean
This is a picture of what CC and BCC mean

The Difference Between CC and BCC in Email

CC stands for "Carbon Copy," and it allows all of those people you "CC" to see who else you sent the message. BCC stands for " Blind Carbon Copy," and it keeps anyone from seeing the rest of the list of people you are sending your message.

You must think before you act on your new found knowledge of email sending power. CC and BCC can be used for strategic and covert email operations, and "with much power comes much responsibility." That's why I suggest you keep reading about how to use your new technological weapon.

When to use CC or "Carbon Copy"

Think of Carbon Copy, or CC, as your invitation to other people to listen in on your conversation with another person. When you use CC, you are directing your message toward a person or group of people and then allowing another person or group of people to see that conversation happen. Here's an example:

To: John

CC: Ashley, Jimmy, Nikki, Bill, Wayne, Desmond, Kim

John,

I noticed that your breath is extremely horrible today, and I am sending you this email because I didn't want to be exposed to the toxic smell of your rotten mouth by telling you in person. I couldn't even bear to imagine smelling the putrid stench again if I hear your voice.

Please accept my condolences for the ill fated turd that you had for breakfast. I'll be mailing you 5 dollars to purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste. Please use these two items daily once purchased. You may not buy White Castle food with the money.

Sincerely,

Blake

In this example, the sender is clearly CC'ing the other people to warn them not to go near John today, and to inform them that the sender is working on the problem. This really helps the workplace function more smoothly and efficiently.

Unfortunately, John will know that you have warned all of these people about his horrifying breath, and his feelings might be hurt. If there was only a way to send the message to John and the other coworkers without anyone seeing the list of people you are sending the message, then you could warn the others without John's knowledge. Also you wouldn't have to send multiple messages. Oh, wait! You're in luck, keep reading about Blind Carbon Copying messages.

When to Use BCC or "Blind Carbon Copy"

Think of BCC as if you are copying your message with a copy machine and putting each separately in the mail to different addresses. No one would know for sure if the message was sent to others, unless they got into the other people's mail boxes.

Since you are emailing, that would mean hacking or snooping in other people's email in boxes. Your message goes to everyone as if you sent separate emails; no one knows who got the message.

You can use BCC for times when you want the message to be shared, but who gets the message to stay a secret. Here's an example:

To: Blake (You can put your own address in here if you want)

BCC: Ashley, Jimmy, Nikki, Bill, Wayne, Desmond, Kim, All of America

Dear Person, (Don't be specific with the title since you have diverse recipients)

You have won a new car from the Blake Sweepstakes. All you have to do is reply to this email and send me your banking account numbers, social security number, blood type, favorite color of snow, and what you had for breakfast today to claim your prize.

Sincerely,

Blake Sweepstakes Prize Distribution

In this case, if your name is not Oprah, you are probably running a scam. But there could be legitimate reasons you or your business would want to use discretion when sending information or doing business communications. So, the question remains whether BCC is legal.

Is BCC Legal and/or Ethical?

The simple answer is yes, of course, otherwise the email hosting companies would be under fire for facilitating criminal activity. The problem is that people can use BCC to help them do things that are illegal, immoral, or unethical. Fraud and scams are nothing new, but this 'newish' technology allows scam artists and phishers to do their work more efficiently.

Think about the costs it would take to send a real virus in the actual U.S. mail to infect millions of people. It's much easier and cheaper to send a virus to millions of computers worldwide. This is illegal, immoral, unethical, and harmful according to most people with a conscience. Be responsible with your BCC'ing and use if for good instead of evil.

Decisions Chart for Sending Things CC Vs. BCC

I Want to ____ Should I
CC
BCC
Let everyone know who's included in the conversation
Yes
No
Do something illegal
Yes, so you get caught
No, you might get away with it longer
Protect the privacy of people I am sending a message
No
Yes
Let my boss know about something I am doing
Maybe, if the boss needs to know
Maybe, if the boss needs to know and you don't want anyone to know you are copying the message for your boss
Send the same message to my two different husbands for Valentine's Day
Yes, if you are a polygamist and your husbands don't mind. Othewise, you need to be more creative and individualize your messages.
No, you need to be more creative and individualize your messages.
Tattle on People at Work and be Alienated from my Coworkers
Yes
Yes

What Does Carbon Have to do with Sending Emails?

Carbon paper was used in the past to make copies of thing that were hand-written or typed in real time. A piece of paper coated in carbon was placed between sheets of paper. The pressure from the pen or pencil would rub black carbon onto the blank piece of paper resulting in a "carbon copy." It was a quick technology to make copies or checks and legal documents.

Like most technology things, language hasn't evolved as quickly. So, we humans use older terms to try to describe a new process. Then young people get older and realize they don't even know what carbon has to do with making copies, and you get a generational information and language gap.

Will Sending Blind Carbon Copies Really Make People Blind?

Don't worry about actually making people blind when you send a BCC. It's a metaphor for keeping things secret. This is an old wives tale/urban legend created to keep people from participating in excessive BCCing. You won't actually go blind or cause blindness no matter how many people you BCC, including yourself.

Should I Carbon Copy or Blind Carbon Copy to Email a Link to this Page?

This is up to you. If you want to spread the word about carbon copying and allow others to see who you sent your message to, then you can CC a link to this page. If you want to send a link of this page to people without anyone knowing who you sent it to, then use BCC.

Your CC/BCC Preferences

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Explanation of CC and BCC for People Who Can't Read

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

        Blake Flannery 

        4 years ago from United States

        Good point Mike! That could create a bit of a sticky situation if you don't realize the BCC's will be included.

      • profile image

        Mike 

        4 years ago

        It is also important to know that when you use "Reply All," your reply is not only gooing to the CC's you can see, but also any BCC's who are unknown to you.

      • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

        Blake Flannery 

        6 years ago from United States

        Warren,

        The reason to use CC instead of typing everyone in the "To" is so that you distinguish between those you expect to read it and respond and those you just want to include as a polite gesture.

        If you are working on something that may be valuable to people beyond those directly working together, then you can allow others to be aware just in case those people want to get involved or help.

        You are right, if you are just simply saying something to a certain group of people, then there is no need for cc. It's just that some people in the corporate world need to know about things without actually being expected to respond to your email.

      • profile image

        Warren 

        6 years ago

        Why use cc when you can type all the addresses in the to field? I have always wondered this…

      • BrokenDreamer profile image

        Jen Christopherson 

        6 years ago from Oklahoma, USA

        I never used either of them because I had no idea what they were. I do not work at a company where emails are sent often. I am glad to know what they are however because now I can use them in my personal life. My family is at war with itself and I am trying to be switzerland... Wish me luck! lol

      • charmike4 profile image

        Michael Kromwyk 

        6 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

        I rarely use BCC Blake because I feel that I should be honet with the receiver about who the email have also been sent to. One of my staff members constantly used BCC and I asked him to stop because it was very difficult to 'keep the secret' and it lack transparency within the business, especially if you subscribe to the concept of 'one team'. Cheers Michael

      working

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