Email, the king, To, Cc and Bcc
By Geno A Bulzomi
Copyright, July 2007

Email is king, long live the king!  No doubt email has stormed the world of communication and now reigns supreme.  Chances are if you are not getting any email during a business day you are out of the loop and might want to start looking for another job.  Email is the life blood of almost every organization in the world and if you do not know how to use some form of it you are going to be left behind.

We have come a long way from the days where lords affixed their seals-of-office to messages using hot wax.  In those times recipients not receiving a message with a complete seal knew that they either were not the true recipient or that it had been tampered with before arriving.  Today it is easy to tell if an email was meant for you personally or if you were only let in on the communication for informational purposes.  Email, or rather the king, lets you know if you are to act upon the message or if you are only to be aware of it.  The king also lets you know if you have been chosen for a covert mission by only allowing you to view the message in secret.  These three features, listed below, reveal what the sender expects from you as a recipient of the email:

To: The “To:” is the most direct form of communication an email has and means that you are a primary recipient.  Being included in this field means that you are expected to reply, act upon or collaborate with others on the details of the message.  The “To:” field is a call to action.

Cc:  The “Cc:” is a courtesy copy, meaning that you are included in this message out of professional courtesy or because it indirectly affects you in some way.  You may find yourself in this field if a member of your staff is collaborating with another division and the sender wants you to be aware of the current activities.  The “Cc:” field is not a call to action, but rather a polite way of saying “you might want to be aware of this” or a strategic way of telling a recipient in the “To:” box that the boss is in the “Cc:” box and knows about this, so you better get it done!

Bcc:  The king sometimes requires a person to act as a covert agent and be aware of a message being sent without anyone in the “To:” or “Cc:” boxes being aware.  If you are listed in a “Bcc:” box no one but the sender knows that you can read the message.  Many people consider this to be a dirty trick of email so use it sparingly and accordingly.  If you are in this box never, and I mean never, hit “Reply to All” or the sender will be very angry!  Just remember that you are meant to know about the content of the email, but no one else is—you knowing is a secret.    

Knowing how to act upon a message with you in the “To:” box, the “Cc:” box or the secretive “Bcc:” box will ensure that you do exactly what is expected of you by the sender.  Remember also that when you send an email it is also important to follow the guide listed above—putting someone in the “To:” box when they belong in the “Cc:” box will only cause confusion and might get you in trouble (a supervisor might not like being told what to do by you).

Material can be used with proper citation:
Copyright, July 2007 (Bulzomi, Geno)