What does CC mean in email?

How often do you use the CC function when you send an email? Filling out that line, which usually appears right below the “To” field, is a convenient and efficient way to send information to more than one recipient at a time. But what does CC mean in email?

CC in email

CC literally stands for carbon copy, a reference to earlier forms of written communication that we will explore below. In today’s world of electronic mail (email of course!), the CC field is used to include addresses in addition to the primary recipient. This is a way to involve other parties in a communication.

If you are already a regular user of email communications, you probably know that this is how the CC field works in your email provider. Still, you might not be sure when it’s best to click CC and use this feature. And if you’re curious about the roots of the phrase, you’ve come to the right place.

Carbon Copy used to source paper

Come closer and I’ll tell you a story about life before the Internet, long before electronic mail with its CC and BCC fields was as close as our fingertips. How, you might ask, did we communicate before we had to be aware of email etiquette?

Unless you’re familiar with the days of yore when the primary means of communication was creating a paper trail (or record of communications) using literal paper, you may not know how the abbreviations CC and BCC came to be.

Even after the first personal computers appeared in homes and offices in the 1980s, most people and businesses still relied on paper to capture, share or store information. And what if more than one copy of that piece of paper was needed?

Carbon paper

Enter: carbon paper. To duplicate the information on one sheet of paper, place a piece of carbon paper between that paper and a sheet below it.

This carbon sandwich allowed people to use a typewriter to enter something once and have it appear on the original paper as well as on the paper beneath the carbon layer.

The pigment from the carbon plate would transfer to the paper underneath and create a “carbon copy”. That’s why CC stands for ‘carbon copy’.

What’s cool about carbon?

The pigment that covers a piece of carbon paper is actually carbon black that has been impregnated with wax to help it adhere to the paper and prevent it from bleeding before use. Carbon black is closely related to graphite (commonly found in pencil), but has a much finer texture.

To create carbon black, air and a hydrocarbon such as petroleum are pumped into a furnace, where the heat causes the oil to ignite; it is then heated to increasingly higher temperatures by the air.

Once the temperature reaches 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,648 degrees Celsius), the unburned carbon breaks down into soot, which is then cooled and harvested. For comparison, consider that molten lava reaches only 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,600 degrees Celsius) at its hottest.

Carbon copy today

Well, paper eventually went the way of the dinosaurs, and carbon copy was eventually shortened to CC. Over time, the meaning of the CC rule has come to reflect its modern use in the email inbox.

It now also refers to a Courtesy Copy, a term that better reflects its function when used in an email chain. Recipients are usually given a CC status if they need to see an email but don’t necessarily need to respond, or if they are not the primary recipient, or even one of the main recipients.

The only possible downside to including recipients in the CC field is that anyone the email is sent to can see the other recipients and their email addresses.

And that’s where the BCC field (BCC stands for blind carbon copy) comes into play. The blind copy (the BCC line), right below the CC field, allows you to send the same email to yourself or to multiple people, while keeping their email addresses (and the fact that they were copied) private.

How to use the CC field: email etiquette

As most of us have learned by now, there are really no rules on the Internet. Still, it is possible to follow some guidelines when it comes to CC and BCC fields, especially in specific communications, such as those within professional contexts.

  1. Keeping people informed. When you have a new post that contains important information for a large group, but does not specifically relate to everyone, it is appropriate to CC the group.

  2. Connecting new people. If you’re using email to connect several people who may not have each other’s contact information, or as a way to onboard a new contact, it’s good to use CC.

  3. Sort between recipients. If you are sending a message to many recipients, using CC to include some of them can be a way to indicate that they are not the primary recipients, but that they may find the information useful or important.

When should you avoid the CC field?

Of course, there are times when using the CC field is not the right move. In these cases you must place the recipient in the “To” field or in BCC.

  1. Sensitive information. If there is information that needs to be kept for a specific group, such as human resources information, CC can be too transparent because the entire list can see who else is on it. The BCC field ensures that the recipient only knows who the email is from, and not who else is receiving it.

  2. Playing mind games. If you’re using the CC field to make someone feel left out, you probably need to reconsider your current practices. By indicating that they are not the primary recipient, a CC can be a passive-aggressive way to make someone feel inferior, which is unprofessional and, quite frankly, unkind.

  3. Personal communication. Sometimes an email can contain a lot of personal, heartfelt information and emotions. If you share these thoughts and feelings with people who should feel equally involved, avoid the CC feature, which can have a somewhat impersonal connotation.

That is interesting

Receiving an email with multiple recipients in the TO field can cause confusion. Who should respond? Everyone? Even simple confirmations can clog up the inbox, which is a common problem for many email users. According to EarthWeb, the average person will receive more than 100 emails every day by 2022.

Original article: What does CC mean in email?

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