Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Netiquette Rules For Cc: and Bcc: Fields - Via Netiquette IQ

We all tend to struggle to some extent about who, how and when to have people in the Cc: and Bcc: fields of an email. The follow in an except from my (see below) book which speaks to this topic.

The Cc field

            All of the Netiquette outlined in the previous section applies to the Cc field. Care must be given for ensuring that protection of privacy is absolutely provided for in this field, which is visible to all recipients. Those who are included here, as a rule, should be parties who have a direct interest in the subject. These people should not be addressed in the salutation or body of text, as their roles are passive, and are not expected to reply or take action unless explicitly asked to do so. If multiple responses are initiated, more addressees should not be added unless it is clear that the previous information is appropriate to those added. If this is not the case, the thread should be removed. Those who are included in the Cc field generally should not respond to the message without good reason.

            Many add bosses, supervisors, or persons of higher rank in a Cc. Most of the time, this is for good reason. However, to include such persons to override an opinion, seek to impress, or have motives outside the issue at hand should be seriously considered because of the risk of changing the tone, range, or spirit of the communication.

            Conversely, there are circumstances in email threads for dropping someone from a To, Cc, or Bcc field. Since threads can last for a number of messages, what began as a courtesy for some might become a nuisance to those receiving them. If there is diminishing or no further real significance for their involvement, Netiquette considerations should be given to determine if addressees should be dropped. Also, beginning a new mail thread might be the most useful way to disengage from longer threads.

            Besides maintaining appropriate form, content, and consideration, good Netiquette goes beyond these disciplines. Do not Cc groups if the email is to a supervisor or persons of authority. This can be interpreted in a very negative way and can prove to be a significant embarrassment.
            Bcc refers to “blind carbon copy.” It was originally used for paper correspondence. This option in sending emails is used to conceal the addressee from the complete list of recipients. The sender most often needs to ensure that multiple recipients of the message not see the names of other recipients. Usually, the Bcc recipient may see the email addresses of all recipients. Another use is for a very long list of recipients or a list of recipients who do not know each other, as used in large lists. Bcc is often used to prevent an accidental “Reply All” from being sent when a reply is intended for only the originator of the message.
            Care should always be used in this function. No Bcc recipient should ever come into a thread. Similarly, the sender should be mindful of never addressing the Bcc addressee when naming other Cc recipients.

Adding Cc and Bcc recipients

            It may be obvious to a sender who needs to be included in the Cc or Bcc fields. However, once a communication thread or a string of emails begins, there should be consideration and caution for adding to or deleting from the recipients. The most common Netiquette lapse is to hit a reply selection rather than a reply to all. The assumption should be made that the sender intended to have, at least, an initial response for all addressees. An obvious example of this would be a scheduling inquiry to a group. Clearly, if a reply is given to only one of a group, the results are likely to cause confusion or worse. If an omission to a reply is detected, the sender should resend the mail properly and excuse the omission.
            Many recipients of an email will indiscriminately add or remove senders either to a Cc or a Bcc list. This behavior is not dissimilar to bringing an uninvited associate to an event. To act in this way necessitates either having the authority to do so or a reason that will be beneficial. Should the latter situation arise, proper Netiquette is to make sure new additions are approved and announced. Furthermore, if there are threats to remove, perhaps for security or redundancy purposes, this should be done so with proper considerations and permissions. A Bcc deserves careful consideration, particularly when interjected after a string of messages has begun. There may be reasons or circumstances when this is important, but to do this bears careful consideration and an explanation in a different email. Consider forwarding such a message as well. This allows for an explanation and is marginally more aboveboard.
In addition to this blog, I have authored the premiere book on Netiquette, "Netiquette IQ - A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". You can view my profile, reviews of the book and content excerpts at:


 If you would like to listen to experts in all aspects of Netiquette and communication, try my radio show on BlogtalkRadio  and an online newsletter via paper.li.I have established Netiquette discussion groups with Linkedin and  Yahoo I am also a member of the International Business Etiquette and Protocol Group and Minding Manners among others. I regularly consult for the Gerson Lehrman Group, a worldwide network of subject matter experts and I have been contributing to the blogs Everything Email and emailmonday . My work has appeared in numerous publications and I have presented to groups such as The Breakfast Club of NJ Rider University and  PSG of Mercer County New Jersey.