Do I have to answer an email if I am cc’d? Workplace email etiquette tips for everyday use

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The answer is no. You don’t have to reply to an email where you are on the cc line. CC is short for carbon copy or courtesy copy. The email is being sent to you mainly for your information or to keep you in the loop of the conversation. No further action is expected.

However, if you have something necessary or important to contribute to the conversation, you may respond directly to the sender. If the information is noteworthy to everyone receiving the email, “reply to all”. But there’s no need to email everyone if you’re just saying “ok” or “thanks”. Busy professionals already have too many emails in their inboxes; limiting what you send is a courtesy to them.

Here are a few other tips when using emails:

How about BCC?

BCC means Blind Carbon Copy. Contacts placed in the BCC field will get a copy of the email without the other recipients (those in the To and CC fields) knowing. Contacts who are BCC’d are not expected to respond to the email. In fact, it would be best if they don’t because if they do, the other recipients will see that they were sent a copy without their knowledge. This will seem suspicious and deceitful.

This is why it’s important to use BCC only when necessary. Use it only when you need to keep a contact’s email address confidential or if the email recipients do not know each other (for example, when sending out a client newsletter).

To summarize:

To – This is where you put the email addresses of contacts you are directly communicating with. You are expecting a response or an action from the contacts.
CC – This is where you put contacts that need to be informed about the issues discussed in the email but they do not need to reply.
BCC– This is where you add contacts who need the information but require that their email address be kept confidential. They also don’t need to respond to the email.

CC and BCC don’ts

  1. Don’t CC or BCC a boss or co-worker if you already provide updates on the matter through other means, for example at regular meetings or calls. It will be repetitive and might annoy the receiver.
  2. Never use CC (or BCC) to embarrass others. An example would be sending an email message discussing a co-worker’s error, for example in a report, and then adding their immediate boss in the CC line.
  3. Don’t CC a person you expect to (and should) respond to the email. Also don’t CC someone who does not have anything to do with the information in the email.
  4. Don’t use BCC when you can use CC. It will keep communications transparent in the workplace.
  5. Don’t use BCC as an attempt to let another person “eavesdrop” or listen in on a conversation.

A bonus tip:

Ever regretted sending an email? There are times when you wish you could take back an angry message or perhaps used the phone instead. On other days, you wish you added something to make the message clearer or deleted something that was unnecessary before hitting “send”.

If this sounds like you and you’re using Outlook, you need the delay delivery option. This sends your email to the Outbox where it stays there for a few minutes rather than going to the recipient/s right away. This will give you time to retrieve the message and do the necessary changes if need be. You can set the amount of delay from one minute to 120 minutes (I suggest not going beyond three to five minutes to keep your messages timely). You can do this for a single message or for all your emails. Go to Microsoft Support for a step-by-step guide to do this.

Sources: Email etiquette, Purdue Online Writing lab; The complete guide to business email etiquette, e-joy English; and Email etiquette – when should you use BCC and CC? Danielle Walz, LinkedIn. Accessed February 3, 2021.

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