BCC in Email: What Does It Mean and How to Use It

What Does BCC Mean in Email and How to Use It
Vitalii Poddubnyi Vitalii Poddubnyi 02 april 2024, 10:28 67
For beginners

Email is the most popular form of online communication and has its unique rules. One of the rules entails knowing when to use CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy). This article will explain what you need to know about CC and BCC and show the correct use cases for each one.

BCC vs. CC

CC stands for “carbon copy,” which means sending a copy of your email to another recipient. The CC recipients are people who are meant to see the email but are not expected to take further action or respond. The main recipient is listed in the “To” address field, and they can decide whether to respond only to the original sender or also to the addresses in the CC field.

BCC stands for “blind carbon copy,” and it works essentially the same way as carbon copy. The difference is that other recipients will not see the list of BCC addresses, unlike CC addresses, of which they can see the complete list.

Fun fact: Why is it called carbon copy?

Before email became ubiquitous, people mainly communicated (you won’t believe that!) with paper. You’d type your message on a typewriter and send a physical paper to the recipient. The only way to make an identical copy with a typewriter was to place a sheet of carbon paper underneath the original document. This new copy was called “carbon copy.”

As a courtesy to the main recipient, the typist usually wrote “CC to: Name” at the end of the document, letting the recipient know who else was given a copy. When the email technology was adopted, software engineers copied this practice to allowe people to CC and BCC over the Internet.

Using BCC in your email client

The BCC button is easy to find in most email clients. If you’re using Gmail, check the right of your message draft's “To” line, and you’ll see options for CC or BCC.

Click on BCC, and a new line will appear to type in all the addresses you want to send a blind copy to. The same occurs when you click CC.

If you’re using Outlook, the CC line appears by default in a message draft, but you need to click BCC to add the line. Most email apps make it quite easy to find this button, so you shouldn’t have any problems regardless of which one you use.

When should you use BCC against To or CC?

The “To” address field is for every main recipient of your message. These are the people the message is intended for, and a response is likely expected.

When to use CC

The CC field is for everyone you want to see the email but don’t expect further action from. For example, you can email your team manager and CC other team members, notifying them about your report. You don’t expect a response from other team members, but you’ve sent a copy to their addresses to inform them about the situation.

When to use BCC

BCC may be appropriate in several cases, including:

  • Bulk messaging. BCC comes in handy if you’re sending an email to dozens or hundreds of people, such as an event invitation. Many recipients might not know each other, and you don’t want someone to mistakenly hit the Reply All button and message dozens of people they don’t know. Hence, you use BCC to hide the recipients’ addresses from other recipients and protect everyone’s privacy.
  • Individual privacy. You can use BCC to hide any address you don’t want other recipients to see. For instance, you might send a sales pitch to someone in another company, and you’d like your manager to see the initial message. Sending a BCC to your manager keeps them in the loop without revealing their address to the main recipient.
  • Avoiding lengthy threads. BCC allows you to keep someone informed while sparing them the annoyance of getting notifications for further replies. For example, if you’re starting a workplace conversation, you might want to let someone know the conversation has begun but don’t want them to participate in a lengthy email thread. BCC-ing their address is an effective way to do this.

Improper BCC use cases

BCC can be misused in many ways, and you definitely want to avoid being the one who misuses it. Improper BCC usage can make you look unprofessional and affect your reputation. Below, we’ll examine some BCC use cases you should avoid.

Eavesdropping

It's a bad idea to BCC someone an email they’re not meant to see. A typical example is tagging an outsider in an email containing sensitive corporate information or BCC-ing a friend in a reference letter you’ve written to their company.

Remember that even though BCC addresses aren’t shown, a BCC recipient can still reply to a message, which will expose their address. If that happens, you’ll have many questions to answer and possibly face serious consequences.

Making someone look bad

It’s improper behavior to BCC someone’s boss in an email to make the person look bad. This act makes the sender look unprofessional and petty, and the BCC-ed person might see the sender in a bad light.

If any issue needs the attention of someone’s boss, be transparent about it. Put both their email address and their boss’s in the “To” section, letting them know their boss is also participating in the conversation. Honesty goes a long way in fostering collaboration and productivity in the workplace.

Avoiding transparency

Circumventing transparency with BCCs is a no-no. It feels disingenuous to add someone to the BCC section without clear reasoning as to why their address should be hidden. Don’t use BCCs to make people read messages they have no business seeing – lack of transparency breeds contempt and suspicion, which impedes organizational productivity.

BCC email FAQs

What does BCC mean in an email?

BCC means blind carbon copy. Adding someone’s address in the BCC field sends them a copy of the email but hides their address from other recipients. Those included in the BCC will not receive any reply from other recipients; they only get the initial message.

How can you BCC someone in an email?

Open a new message pane and look for the BCC button. In Gmail, this button is displayed right next to the “To” line. In other email clients, you can usually find the BCC button or field in a similar place.

Type the person’s address in the BCC line and send the message. The BCC address will get the message, and the address will be hidden from other recipients.

When can you properly use BCC?

The most common case for using BCC is when sending bulk messages. BCC lets you hide all the recipients’ addresses from each other and avoid people mistakenly replying to everyone. You can also use BCC when you want someone to receive a message but don’t want other recipients to know that person received it.

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