Business Email Practices: Using CC and BCC

Businesses receive and exchange millions of emails on a daily basis. Email has revolutionized the business landscape. With a few clicks, users can share enormous amounts of data in seconds in a way that would once have taken days or weeks. Unfortunately, like any other tool, email is only effective when users use it in the right way. One of the most common mistakes occurs when deciding who to send an email too.

About Email Sending Options

When sending email, users have the option to send the message to one of three audiences, normally known as to, cc and bcc. Each of these audiences has a specific purpose, which users frequently ignore. Users should only send emails to these target audiences as follows:

* To. This option is for a message that is directly relevant to everyone that you include in this field. Send messages to this group when you want every user to read them. If you are asking a question, requesting approval or looking for feedback, you should expect every person in the to field to respond.
* Cc. The cc (carbon copy) option is for a message that may only be partly relevant to the names that you add to the field. The people in the cc field should review the message for information only. The recipients need not read the message urgently. You are simply keeping them in the loop. You do not expect a response.
* Bcc. The bcc (blind carbon copy) option is suitable for those occasions when you want to send a message to somebody without the other addressees knowing. Most commonly, this is a way of escalating an issue or keeping your boss in the loop without letting other people know. You may expect a response from the people in the bcc field, but by blind copying them in this way, you are confirming that you do not want them to reply to the other addressees.

Common Business Email Mistakes

Misuse of these options leads to ineffective email communication. It is often not clear to recipients whether you want them to respond or not, or whether you want them to do anything. As such, they may ignore the email in favor of those that they can clearly see they need to respond to. With so many emails arriving daily, users naturally have to prioritize their time.

Using these options incorrectly can also cause further problems. Senior managers may not react well to an email for which they are in the cc option. They may feel that you should not copy them in, and that you should only send them emails that you want them to review and respond to. Worse still, if you accidentally copy somebody in when you want to blind copy them in, you can quickly alienate people. People may see that you are essentially escalating something without consulting them first.

Misusing these email options can create more work, can damage relationships and can easily erode the value of the system in the first place.

4 Good Business Email Practices To Adopt

Actively limit the use of the cc option. Think carefully about whether you really need to keep these people in the loop. Sending too many emails leads to information overload, which defeats the object. In most cases, unless you want or need somebody to reply, you probably do not need to send the email to them.

Do not automatically reply to everyone. If another sender misuses the to and cc fields, by replying to everyone you will simply be continuing the error. Remove names from the cc list if possible and reply only to those you need to.

Avoid using bcc to quietly escalate matters. The bcc function is really only suitable when you are trying to prevent all the users from seeing each others’ email addresses. If you really need to share an email with an individual, you should forward it on separately or better still have a face-to-face conversation. The use of the bcc field is quite lazy and is risky. It is too easy to accidentally add the wrong person.

Email can be an effective and cheap way to send information and data. It is so convenient to use that bad habits easily develop. Think carefully about every email you send, and use the cc and bcc options wisely.

NEVER open email attachments from someone you do not know. Likewise, it is unwise to visit websites through email links when you do not know person who sent the email. Some websites can contain malware and/or be efforts to ‘phish’ for more information about the visitor. Even if an email contains CC to people you know, but you do not know the sender, still do not open attachments or visit links within the email. Forward any suspicious email to your company’s tech department. Be doubly cautions of unknown emails if you work from home.

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