CC vs BCC: Learn the difference when sending an email

Last updated on By

Whenever you compose an email, there are often two additional fields called “CC” and “BCC”. While their meaning and uses might be obvious to you, it might not be for others.

In email terminology, CC actually means “Carbon copy” and BCC stands for “Blind Carbon copy“. You can use CC and BCC field to send copies of an email to additional people. Now the question you might be asking yourself is “Wait; I can also use the “TO” field to insert extra emails as well. So what’s really the difference between CC, BCC and TO field?”

See also : Difference between POP 3 and IMAP when configuring an email

Sending an Email

When you compose an email, in most email clients, including Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, you have three field choices to enter the recipient(s) email address(es): the TO, CC and BCC field. While filling any of them will get your email sent to the intended recipient(s), these three fields should never be used interchangeably especially in a work environment. Here’s how to use each one of them:

  • To: Enter the email addresse(s) of people the email is directly targeted to. Generally speaking, you would want to add only one address.
  • Cc: Enter the email addresse(s) of people whom you wishes they are aware of this email. The recipients in the “to” and “cc” field will be able to see each other when receiving the email
  • Bcc: Enter the email addresse(s) of people you want to discreetly inform them about the same. Email addresses added to this field will neither be visible to the “TO” and “CC” nor to the other “BCC” recipients.

Example of CC and BCC

Now that you know the difference between those fields, let’s see an example of an email with all the three fields filled. Diference between bcc and cc when sending an email


Here is what everyone will see (including John and David) when they receive the email:

bcc vs cc when sending an email

Alice and Bob will see each other’s email address but will not see John and David’s email address. However, John and David will realize that they were BCC’ed, but neither of them will know who else was BCC’ed.

TO vs CC: When you should use CC instead of To

In the case of Alice and Bob, you could argue that why not add both Alice and Bob in the TO field or both in the CC field since they work similarly. Your email will still be sent. However, when it comes to emailing etiquette, the To field is generally used to address the main recipient of your email, and you generally expect a reply from them.

The person(s) in the CC field is used to send them a copy of the email just to keep them in ‘the loop’. Generally, they are not expected to participate in the email conversation, unless they have something important to point out.

Another scenario for using the CC field is when you want the recipient of the email to take the message more seriously or treat it as urgent. For example, let’s say your boss assigned you some work to complete, and you have reached a point where you need a sub-task to be done by a co-worker in order to continue. You might want to drop him an email explaining about the sub-task and CCing your boss is a great way to let your colleague know that he should treat this email as important. In case you missed your deadline due to your co-worker being slow, most of the time your boss will figure out by himself why the task has not been completed on time. That’s how I deal with my lazy co-workers. 🙂

CC vs BCC: When you should use CC instead of BCC?

Nothing is more annoying than receiving an email where you see your email address being listed among a long list of people you don’t know. This reminds me of those ‘chain emails’ in the early days of the Internet. You know, those emails that tell you to forward it to your friends or else something bad will happen to you. Sadly, many people still for these kinds of traps even today and keep forwarding these messages using the TO field. This in turns invites misuse of those emails by leaking everyone’s email address to every virus-infected machine on the list.

When dealing with emails with hundreds of recipients, it might be a good idea to add them in the BCC field so as they do not know who else this email was sent to. This will also decrease the likelihood of getting spammed from someone in the list.

Closing words

We have seen the difference when and why you should use the TO, CC and BCC field when sending an email. As you can see, it is important to follow the basics of email etiquette, whether you are sending work-related or personal emails for effective communication. Not only, people will find it a joy to communicate with you, but you will also be recognized as an intelligent human being.

Have something interesting to add? Sound off  in the comment section below.

7 Comments to CC vs BCC: Learn the difference when sending an email

    • hayderabbass

      Tom, it all depends on your email provider. Let’s take Gmail for example, it allows you to sent a total of 500 emails per day. If you have one recipient, you can send 500 emails, 2 recipients – 250 emails.

      Now if you have 2 people in the “TO” field and 8 people in the ‘BCC’ field, then you can send only (500/10 people) 50 emails.

  1. Thanks for the clear explanation and the screenshots really help. The best way to use BCC is to use your own email in the “TO” field and then BCC everyone else. This way no one gets to see anyone’s email address but your own.

  2. This information is pure Gold if you use emails as the primary communication in the office. 🙂 PS.: It’s only today I noticed the BCC field in Gmail. Shame on me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *