Question of the Week When I send an email, when do I use the Bcc field?
-- Dhendup, Paro
When you compose an email, you can send it to three groups of recipients: “To”, “Cc” and “Bcc”. I’m sure you are familiar with “To” field, which is used to enter the email addresses of the main, or primary, recipients of the message. Often this is the only field used.
Now let’s move on to “Cc”, which stands for “Carbon copy” - a sentimental reminder of the old times when copies of letters were made using carbon paper! In the “Cc” area, the sender enters email addresses of recipients who do not need to act upon the email. The Cc’d people are not the primary recipients of the email; they receive a copy for informational purpose only. Employees often add their managers to the “Cc” list, to let them know about an email that they sent and keep them “in the loop”. By the way, as a courtesy to the recipients, it is good practice to mention in the email itself that people were Cc’d (“I am also Cc’ing my manager and the department head”). Note that in Gmail, you must click on the “Add Cc” link (just below the To field) to avail this field.
The list of “To” and “Cc” recipients becomes part of the email message, so everyone who receives the message can see the list of all “To” and “Cc” recipients.
Now to your original question, the “Bcc”, which stands for “Blind carbon copy”. This is a little tricky! People in the Bcc list also receive a copy of the email. However, the list of Bcc recipients is NOT part of the email message and is concealed from the recipients of the email. People who receive the email cannot see the list of recipients in the Bcc list.
There are two main uses for Bcc. The most popular use is sending mass emails (for example, newsletters) without revealing the list of recipients. By putting the list of email addresses in the Bcc field, recipients will not know who else got the mass email. Very handy! For example, Kuensel places all recipients of the PDF newspaper edition in the Bcc field, so that recipients cannot see each others’ email addresses.
Secondly, say you want to copy a friend on an email you’re sending, but you don’t want the “To” and “Cc” recipients to know that you copied your friend. You add your friend to the Bcc list. He will get a copy, but none of the recipients will know. This is a bit sneaky, but also risky: If your friend decides to “Reply All” to this message, his reply will be sent to you as well as to all “To” and “Cc” recipients. Suddenly, the original recipients of the message might realize that you sent the message to extra people “behind their back”. Embarrassing!
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