CC vs BCC: How are they different? How To Use Them in Email Effectively?

2 minute read

If you use emails on a daily basis, you might be using CC (Carbon Copy) and BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) as required. As AEs and SDRs, we use them daily and yet—we often tend to underutilize it.

Understanding how CC and BCC work can help us avoid blunders, especially when you’re communicating with key decision makers in your prospect’s organization.

When you send an email using your email marketing software, CC and BCC appear below or alongside the “To” field and are used to include additional recipients. However, the distinction between the two is subtle but significant. 

Both CC and BCC allow you to send copies of your email to additional recipients—but the manner in which these copies are delivered and disclosed differs, impacting the privacy and dynamics of your email communication.

In this article, we will dive into understanding how CC and BCC works, their use cases, and also how not to use them.

What is CC in email?

CC, or Carbon Copy, is a feature that enables you to send a copy of your email to other recipients aside from the primary recipient. The term "carbon copy" harks back to a time when paper documents were copied using carbon paper. 

In fact, CC works similarly—ensuring that the CC’d recipients receive an exact copy of your email and all further “Reply All” responses in the thread. It's a useful feature for keeping relevant parties in the loop without requiring a direct response from them.

Does everyone see CC in email?

When you CC someone in an email, their email address is visible to all recipients of the email. This transparency fosters openness in communication, as it's clear who else is privy to the information being shared. 

what is cc in email

However, it's important to use CC judiciously. Overusing CC can clutter inboxes and dilute the significance of the information being shared. Therefore, before adding a recipient to the CC field, you need to consider if it is truly necessary to keep them in the loop.

How does CC work?

CC works pretty much like the "To" field, but with a slightly different vibe. The ones in CC are like an audience that are privy to a conversation between two parties. They're kept in the loop, sure, but they don't necessarily have to jump in and take action. 

Think of CC as giving someone a heads-up or a nudge saying, "Hey, just so you know, XYZ is happening." 

It's like when you're sending an email to your copywriter about a decision that's also going to affect your graphic designer. You'd put the copywriter in the "To" field because they've got to act on it, but you’d CC the designer so they're in the know. It's a smooth move to make sure everyone's on the same page without expecting everyone to reply or do something about it.

Use cases for CC in email

Here are some interesting use cases:

Escalation

‍A common use case for CC is when escalating issues to higher management. By CCing a supervisor on an email, you are informing them of the situation, which can help in speeding up the resolution process.

Customer service

‍In customer service interactions, CCing a colleague or a manager can be useful for transparency and for keeping the team informed about ongoing issues or resolutions. This practice not only fosters teamwork but also ensures that there are multiple eyes on the conversation, potentially offering different perspectives or solutions that might not have been considered by the primary respondent.

Alignment

Furthermore, the use of CC in emails serves as an excellent way to document communication. When decisions are made, or instructions are given, CCing relevant parties creates a trail that can be referred back to if there are any discrepancies or misunderstandings in the future. This fosters accountability and can significantly reduce the potential for miscommunication.

Communities and non-profits

For non-profit organizations or community groups, CC is often utilized to distribute newsletters, updates, or calls to action to a wide audience without necessarily expecting a response from every recipient. This method allows for efficient dissemination of information, ensuring that all stakeholders are kept in the loop.

What is BCC in email?

BCC, or Blind Carbon Copy, shares similarities with CC but with a critical difference: the email addresses of BCC'd recipients are hidden from other recipients. This feature is invaluable when sending emails to multiple recipients who do not know each other or when privacy needs to be maintained. 

what is bcc in email

BCC ensures that while all recipients receive the email, their email addresses are not disclosed to others, safeguarding their privacy. The strategic use of BCC can enhance the professionalism and discretion of your email communication. 

For instance, when sending a newsletter or announcement to a large group, BCC can prevent recipients' email addresses from being exposed to others. Moreover, BCC can be a tool for subtly including supervisors or colleagues in correspondence without signaling their involvement to the primary recipient. 

Can I send an email with only BCC? Can I just BCC everyone?

Yes, it is technically possible to send an email with recipients only in the BCC field. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind if you choose to send an email this way. 

Firstly, emails with only BCC recipients may have a higher chance of being flagged as spam by some email providers. This is because spammers often use the BCC field to send out bulk emails. To mitigate this risk, ensure your subject line is clear and your email content is well formatted and relevant to all recipients.

On that note, you might want to check out our article on how to format an email to maximize your response rates.

cc vs bcc
How to format an email

Additionally, it's a good practice to include a brief explanation of why the recipient is receiving the email or to personalize the email content to reduce the spam-like appearance.

Moreover, when using only the BCC field, you have to enter your own email address in the "To" field or leave it blank. Some email clients or services might not allow you to send an email without anything in the "To" field, so using your own email address is a common workaround.

Overusing BCC, especially in a professional setting, could potentially lead to mistrust among colleagues or clients who might perceive the lack of transparency negatively. Therefore, always consider the context and the recipients' expectations before deciding to send an email with only BCC recipients.

Understanding when and how to use BCC effectively can significantly benefit your email communications.

Use cases for BCC in email

First and foremost, when using CC, always ask yourself, "Does everyone in this email chain need to receive this information?" If the answer is yes, then proceed with CC. However, if you're simply keeping someone in the loop who doesn't need to actively participate, consider if this is the best approach or if a summarized update would be more appropriate later.

In contrast, BCC is best used when sending mass emails where recipients' privacy must be preserved. Whether you're sending out a newsletter, a general announcement, or coordinating a surprise, BCC is your go-to feature.

Here are a couple of interesting use cases:

Introductions

One sophisticated use of BCC is in the context of introducing two parties via email. After the initial introduction, you can BCC the person who made the introduction on your response. This signals to the introducer that the connection has been successfully made, without them needing to be involved in the subsequent conversation. 

It’s a subtle way of saying "thank you" and "we've got it from here."

Feedback collection

A really good use case for BCC is feedback collection. When sending a draft or proposal to a group, you might CC the primary stakeholders who need to provide input and BCC others who simply need to be aware of the ongoing process. 

It’s a great way to clearly delineate who is expected to respond, thereby streamlining the feedback mechanism.

CC vs BCC: The difference

The key difference (CC vs BCC) lies in the visibility of the recipients to each other. 

When you use CC to add recipients to an email, every recipient can see the email addresses of the other recipients included in the CC field. 

On the other hand, the BCC function provides a layer of privacy. Recipients listed in the BCC field receive the email, but they cannot see the email addresses of other BCC recipients. They can only view the sender's address and the addresses of any recipients listed in the To or CC fields.

The choice between CC vs BCC in email hinges on the need for transparency among the recipients. 

CC is for situations where it's beneficial for all recipients to know who else is receiving the message, while BCC is best when the sender needs to communicate the same message to multiple people without revealing each recipient's email address to others.

Common CC and BCC mistakes

One of the most common mistakes is overusing the CC field, where individuals tend to include more recipients than necessary. This not only clutters inboxes but also risks sharing sensitive information with unintended parties.

Similarly, incorrect usage of BCC can lead to breaches of privacy. For instance, failing to use BCC when sending a mass email exposes all recipients' email addresses to each other, which could violate confidentiality agreements or data protection laws.Another frequent error involves misunderstanding the appropriateness of CC vs BCC in different communication contexts.

CC is typically used for informational purposes, and on the other hand, BCC is best reserved for situations where privacy is paramount. However, some users mistakenly use BCC to secretly include individuals in conversations, which can erode trust if discovered.Moreover, a lack of clarity on when to reply to all versus replying to the sender alone often results in either unnecessary spamming of all participants' inboxes or the inadvertent omission of crucial stakeholders from the conversation.

To avoid these pitfalls, it's important to always double-check the recipient list before sending an email, be judicious in deciding who truly needs to be included in the communication, and be aware of the implications of using CC and BCC in terms of privacy and email etiquette.

Remember: it always comes down to the “who” and “why”

Now that we have seen how CC and BCC works in emails—the key factor always comes to whom you’re sending the email to, and the purpose. Because, keeping your recipients in CC or BCC based on your discretion is just one part of the puzzle. 

You don’t want to do an email blast to an unknown list and damage your email domain reputation. This is where building an high-intent outreach list using Plena comes handy, compared to most other list building tools out there. 

Plena looks at multiple attributes (22 or more) to determine if someone is searching with a purchase intent or if it is a casual consumption. 

The higher the baseline, the more reliable your intent data will be. And reaching out to those with specific messages based on their intent is likely to get you the desired results.

Here’s a quick overview of Plena is different compared to the traditional approach:

cc vs bcc

When you are clear on your “who” and “why,” the better your judgment on whom to CC and whom to BCC. 

Summing up…

Understanding the subtle differences between CC and BCC – and knowing when to use each – can significantly impact the effectiveness of your email communication. 

The golden rule of CC is transparency and inclusion, whereas BCC is about privacy and discretion. By employing these features judiciously, you can ensure your communications are professional, considerate, and purpose-driven.

By mastering the art of CC and BCC, you're not just sending messages; you're fostering clear, respectful, and efficient communication. Whether it's keeping stakeholders informed without overburdening them, or sending out mass communications without compromising privacy, these tools are indispensable in your email toolkit. 

It's often the smallest nuances that lead to the most significant improvements in how we connect with one another.

Each day without Plena = Lost Sales

With Plena — list building, contact enrichment and scalable multi-channel outreach is a breeze.