Sending an Email to Multiple Recipients With Cc And Bcc

An illustration of an email with multiple recipients.


When you write an email, you write it to someone (and indeed, perhaps, someone special).

Yet, the To: field is not the only place to put an addressee. Two more fields accept recipients. They are called Cc: and Bcc: and you probably have already seen them — the former at least — in your email program. Let us find out what Cc: and Bcc: are for.

What Does "Cc" Mean in Email?

Screenshot of the Cc field in Gmail

Cc is short for carbon copy. Those naming and designing this email feature probably had the real world counterpart to email in mind: letters. Carbon copy paper made it possible to send the same letter to two (or even more if you hit the keys really hard) different people without the onerous task of having to write or type it twice.

The analogy works well. An email is sent to the person in the To: field, of course.

A verbatim copy of the message is also sent to all the addresses listed in the Cc: field, though.

More than one email address can be in the Cc: field, and all addresses in the field receive a copy of the message. To enter more than one address in the Cc: field, separate them with commas.

The Shortcomings of Cc

When you send a message to more than one address using the Cc: field, both the original recipient and all recipients of the carbon copies see the To: and Cc: fields including all the addresses in them.

This means that every recipient gets to know the email addresses of all the persons that received the message. Typically, this is not desirable. Nobody likes their email address exposed to the public, be it just a possibly small group of strangers.

Overly full Cc: fields also do not look all that good. They can become quite long and grow big on the screen. Lots of email addresses will overshadow little message text. What is more, when somebody, perhaps through an unwise default setting, replies to all on your message, all those addresses also end up in the Cc: field of their answer.

What Does "Bcc" Mean in Email?

Screenshot of Bcc field in Gmail

Expanded, Bcc stands for blind carbon copy. If this gives you the image of an empty sheet of paper, that might not quite be what email's Bcc: is about, but it's not entirely useless as an analogy either.

The Bcc: field helps you deal with the problems created by Cc:. As it is the case with Cc:, a copy of the message goes to every single email address appearing in the Bcc: field.

The difference is that neither the Bcc: field itself nor the email addresses in it appear in any of the copies (and not in the message sent to the addresses in the To: or Cc: fields either).

The only recipient address that will be visible to all recipients is the one in the To: field. So, to keep maximum anonymity you can put your own address in the To: field and use Bcc: exclusively to address your message.

Bcc: lets you send a newsletter, too, or send a message to undisclosed recipients.

Carbon Copy and Blind Carbon Copy Etiquette

Bcc: is a nice and powerful tool. You will do well to limit its use, though, to cases when it is clear that the message was sent to multiple recipients whose addresses are protected using Bcc:. You could mention the other recipients at the end of the email by name, but not by email address, for example.

In any case, Bcc: is not a spying device. How would you feel when a message addressed to you might also have reached a number of other people, but you did not know who?

Adding Blind Carbon Copy Recipients

To add Bcc: recipients in your email program or service: