What do CC and BCC mean in e-mail and why it should matter to you

There are no written rules on how to do e-mail. At least there are no set of requirements you must fulfill before you can send mail electronically. But, that said, there are ways you can send e-mail that would be more gracious than others.

When it comes to e-mail etiquette, there may be many who aren’t aware that not everyone wishes to have their addresses forwarded along with the latest funny joke or picture that’s being passed along. Perhaps it may be due to the fact that the senders (or forwarders) are unaware of what the “CC,” “BCC” and “Reply” buttons or commands do.

The “CC” field stands for “Carbon Copy,” which in this day and age may have next to no meaning for most e-mail users. Carbon copy refers to the old days of typing when an actual carbon page was placed between two pages when typing to insure that one page would be carboned (or copied) to the other. Thus, the idea is that putting an address — or addresses —  in the CC field copies that message to that (or those) addresses. The recipient(s) will see those addresses when they receive the e-mail.

The “BCC” field stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Understanding what CC does, you can see how BCC works. Basically it allows the sender to copy a message to another address or addresses without the recipient seeing those addresses. You can send an e-mail with the “To” field empty and addresses in either the “CC” or “BCC” fields and the message will still be sent.

So, why is this important? Well, consider the fact that sending a forwarded e-mail that is filled with addresses is a) rude to the recipient and b) possibly opening those recipients up to spammers. After all, did the people in your address book actually ask you to send their address all over the Internet? Even on a basic level, how much will your recipient enjoy your message when they have to scroll through a long list of addresses before they get to it?

That being said, it would probably be better to learn how to use the CC and BCC fields if you absolutely must forward that joke or picture. This is how it would work: Uncle Larry sends you a hilarious joke and you want to share it with your entire address book. When you hit forward and the message field opens up, you can leave the “To” and “CC” fields blank and then put your addresses in the “BCC” field and then hit send.

On a somewhat related note, suppose you’re replying to a message. Again, the same principles hold. Don’t clutter the message by filling up the “To” and “CC” fields unless you want to document to the group who saw the message and reply. Also, if you want to reply to just the sender and not the entire group, don’t hit reply all but rather just reply.

This might seem like a lot of work for something that works pretty easy already. But, like saying “please” and “thank you,” a little politeness can go a long way.

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