Friday, February 12, 2010

To:, Cc: and Bcc:

Occasionally, I get an e-mail that makes me think people are confused by these 3 features of e-mail. For example, someone will send out an e-mail that clearly meant for a single person but they'll put everybody in the To: field. How do I know the e-mail is meant for that person...because the opening salutation ends in the person's name (for example: "Hello Kevin" or "hey John", or simply "Jack"). If the e-mail is meant solely for Kevin, why include everyone in the To field (unless you are trying to rat out the recipient)?

To be clear, this is how you use these fields:
  • To: Include the primary recipient(s)
  • Cc: Include the secondary recipient(s). There's no expectation that these guys will respond. It's just a courtesy notification. Say you want to applaud a team member by writing an e-mail to his/her boss. You Cc him/her so he/she is aware but is not expected to respond.
  • Bcc: This should be obvious. If you are in the Bcc, you should never never hit "Reply All" since the other recipients don't know you got the e-mail in the first place. This is what you do when you want to CYA (perhaps you have a co-worker that lies about not receiving e-mail...send it and Bcc his/her boss).
BTW: Cc means Carbon Copy and Bcc means Blind Carbon Copy. Those terms are from the days of typewriters and carbon papers.

Got it now? Oh one last thing, when you are forwarding jokes to a bunch of people, most of whom don't know one another, do not put everyone's email address in the To field. That's just totally inappropriate.