When to use To, Cc and Bcc in email

You may not know the difference between the to, cc and bcc fields, but where you put the recipient's email addresses is very important

When to use To

The To field is the default place to put your recipient's email address. If you are sending your message to one person, you should use To.

If you are sending the same email to multiple people, it gets a bit more complicated.

Use To for people that the message directly affects, and that you require action from. If you're expecting someone to do something based on your email, they should be in the To field. That could be as simple as responding to a question you've asked.

It's also a good idea to include all the people you put in the To: field in your opener line. This lets the others know who is involved in the conversation (and people who've just been Cc'd or BCc'd. 

Hi Bill, Ted, Mary & Suzy,

If you are sending to more than four people, don't bother with this and just start with a single Hi
or Hello.

The To field can be used for as many addresses as you like - some people mistakenly think the Cc line is for multiple addresses.

When to use Cc

The Cc (or carbon copy) field is for people you want to know about the message, but are not directly involved. It's mainly for people that do not need to act or reply to the message, but to keep them
informed. Everyone who receives the message can see the email addresses entered into the To and Cc fields.

You can also point out in the email that someone has been included via Cc.

Tom (Cc'd) will also be at the event tomorrow if you need any help setting up.

The CC field can be used for a number of reasons:

  • It keeps other people "in the loop" on certain issues (often used to keep managers up to date on issues).
  • It lets people know if they are expected to take action, or if they are just being informed.
  • It allows you to make the receiver aware that other people know what is going on (in
    case you want them to take the content more seriously, or treat it as more important or urgent).

When to use Bcc

Finally, the Bcc field (Blind Carbon Copy) is used when you want other people to receive the message, but you don't want the other recipients to know they got it.
When people get an e-mail, they'll see all the people in the To and Cc lines - but not Bcc.
One good use of Bcc is when sending an e-mail to hundreds of people. You don't want them
all to see each other's e-mail addresses so you use this field, rather than the To or Cc lines.

In Summary:
To: People required to take action

Cc: Kept informed of the content, but no actions required from them

Bcc: Receive the message without any of the other recipients knowing. Also used for larger mailings (over 50)