Besides avoiding confusion and commotion in the workplace, there are many important reasons to understand and apply the proper use of CC and bCC when sending emails – especially work emails that contain confidential information (or juicy office gossip).
When the proper use of these features is ignored, you might catch yourself asking the question, ‘if you CC someone can they see previous emails?’ – The fact remains that not many can provide an answer to this question. So to save yourself the confusion, start here.
If You CC Someone Can They See Previous Emails?
Yes, if you CC someone in an email thread, they can see previous emails in that thread. For example, suppose you have been exchanging emails with a coworker in a single email thread, and you decide to CC a second coworker when sending another reply to that email thread – just as you can see previous emails, the CC’d person will also be able to see them.
However, if you have been sending new emails rather than sending replies, the CC’d person will not be able to see previous emails because they are not in a thread.
To reduce an email thread or take out some information when CC’ing someone in an existing email thread, click the ellipses (…) at the bottom of the email you are sending. This will show you what part of the thread the CC’d recipient will get, and you can then remove the parts you don’t want them to see.
What Happens When You CC Someone on Email?
When you CC someone on an email, it means that they will be ‘copied’ in the email you are sending and will also be able to send a reply to you regarding that email. CC stands for Carbon Copy aka ‘Courtesy Copy’, which indicates that the CC’d or secondary recipient receives an exact copy of the email as the primary recipient. In other words, the fields CC: and to: are essentially the same thing.
Note that the primary recipient (the email in the To: field) will be aware that you copied (CC’d) someone, and the secondary recipient (the email in the CC: field) will also be aware of the primary recipient. Secondary recipients (CC’d or copied recipients) will receive emails and all included attachments.
Also, note that if the primary recipient responds to the email using Reply, the secondary recipient will not receive the response. The latter will only receive the response if the former uses Reply All instead of Reply.
What Happens When You BCC Someone on Email?
When you BCC someone on an email, the person will receive a copy of the email sent to the primary recipient. It is very similar to CC in this sense. The difference between the fields is that the primary recipient or any other recipient will not know that you BCC’d someone on the email.
BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy aka ‘Blind Courtesy Copy’, which basically means that a person is copied on the email, but their email address is hidden from other recipients. This means that the other recipients will not be aware, and the tertiary recipient will not be included in future emails in the thread or conversation. Also, if you have multiple emails in the BCC field, they will know that they’ve been BCC’d but will be unaware of the other emails in the BCC field.
Unlike the CC field, when you BCC someone and the primary or secondary recipient responds to the email, the tertiary recipient will not receive the response. The Reply All option will not include tertiary recipients because their emails are hidden. However, the sender and all other recipients will receive the reply if the tertiary recipient replies to the email using the Reply All option.
Some Downsides to BCC and CCing Someone
If you CC someone can they see previous emails? Yes, if you CC them in reply to an email thread. This is one of the significant downsides to CC-ing someone. It can come in other forms as well. For example, A sends an email to C and D. C replies to the email, and D replies as well, but CC’s E and F. Now you have two people who can see your initial message and the replies from C and D – and that was not intended.
Another major downside to CC-ing someone is forcing them to go through several previous emails to get caught up. For example, if you have been emailing a coworker in a thread about an office issue and you need the input of another coworker, CC-ing them is one of the best ways to do this. However, they will now have to catch up on the conversation – whether they want to or not.
Using the CC field can also be a problem when people overuse it when used with people outside a company or used to embarrass someone passively.
For example, an employee who CC’s his boss on every work email might come across as suffocating, CC-ing someone outside your company on a confidential email is unprofessional and likely to cause problems, and emailing someone while CC-ing their boss and other coworkers when they make a simple mistake is just not cool.
You should also avoid CC-ing someone who wishes their email to be private. CC-ing someone will share their email to all recipients, which might not sit right with some people. CC-ing someone can also get you fired.
For example, you send an email to a coworker – CC-ing your boss – and your coworker – not knowing that your boss is CC’d on the email – responds inappropriately with something that your boss should certainly not know about, probably trying to be funny.
The downsides to BCC-ing someone are a bit more intense than CC. First, it usually comes off as deceptive or sneaky – some people call it the ‘backstabbing carbon copy’, probably because of their bad experiences with it. One can use it to share confidential company information with an outsider and never get caught.
A petty employee can also use it to expose a coworker to their boss. Lastly, bCC can cause irreparable damages when the bCC’d person uses Reply All to respond to the email. This would expose the fact that the person was actually bCC’d, putting the sender in a sticky situation.
How to Copy Someone on An Email
To copy someone on an email, type their email address into the CC field when composing the email. To copy someone on Gmail with a computer:
- Open gmail.com on your computer
- Log into your account and tap Compose
- You should see the CC field to the right of the To field
- Tap CC to open up the field and type in the recipient’s emails
- Then type the email, double-check and tap Send
To copy someone on Gmail with a phone:
- Go to the Gmail app on your phone and tap Compose at the bottom of the screen
- Next, click the down arrow to the right of the To field to reveal the CC field
The process is similar on the majority of mailing apps.
How to Add People to Conversations Without Using CC
To add people to conversations without using the CC field, you need to use the To or BCC field. Note that To is meant for the primary/intended recipients of the email, and they are usually expected to respond. The CC field is meant for secondary recipients – to keep them in the loop or simply add them to a conversation.
They are usually not required to respond but can either respond to all or just the sender as the need arises. The BCC field is meant for tertiary recipients whose emails are hidden from other email recipients. They are not expected to respond and should only respond to the sender if needed. They are also not included in the conversation should it be continued.
Can You Overuse the CC Function When Sending Email?
Yes, you can overuse the CC function when sending an email. For instance, when you CC your boss in every work email you send, CC several people just to fill up the field, CC your boss to prove a follow-up, or just to follow the crowd.
The CC field should only be used when you need to:
- Keep someone informed
- Take over someone’s tasks or duties
- Emphasize the urgency of an email
- Introduce two people
- Represent your team
- Send internal newsletters
How to Reply One Person When Multiple People Are Copied
To reply to only one person when multiple people are copied, you can use either Reply or Forward. When you use Reply, your reply goes to only the original sender of the email. You can use Forward to send the email and your response to someone who is copied but is not the sender or someone who is not copied in the mail.
When You CC Someone, Can They See Attachments?
Yes, when you CC someone, they can see all included attachments. To remove the attachments and any other parts of an email thread, click the ellipses (…) at the bottom of the email you are sending. This will show you what part of the thread and previous emails the CC’d recipient will get, and you can then remove the parts you don’t want them to see.
This article provides a detailed answer to the question ‘if you CC someone can they see previous emails’ and many other questions that could save office workers from uncomfortable situations. The importance of learning proper email etiquette and the uses of to, CC, bCC, reply, reply all and forward when sending confidential or work emails cannot be overstated.
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