Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Think Before You CC

Think before you CC on that emailMust You Copy Someone On That Message?   

Being able to send a typed message to several people at once is one of the great benefits of email.  However, many people misuse the benefit and make it one of the worst aspects of a great concept. 

Remember: Email doesn’t waste time. People misusing email waste time.

 Unless you have been directed, requested or begged to CC or BC a message, think before you do it.  Then, think again. There are certainly times when it is appropriate and effective. For example, when you are commending someone, want others to know about it, and want the person you are commending to see who you have copied. Or, when several people are working together and all must get exactly the same information.  However, often it is not appropriate or effective and makes you look badly.

You may add to email clutter.

Does the person you are copying really need to read the entire message? Will it help them do their work more effectively? When they said to keep them informed, did they mean they wanted to see all the emails about a subject as an “FYI”?  Instead of copying on every item, consider sending them a direct email with an overview of what is happening. If it’s not important enough to take the time to do that, maybe copying isn’t needed. 

You may seem to be trying to look impressive.

Are you mostly trying to show how effective you are? (Most of us have done that sometime.) Rather than making you appear saintly or impressive, the message may irritate or amuse those who are CC’d on it. They may not tell you, but mentally they may be sighing or rolling their eyes–or just hitting delete.

Instead of copying what you send to others, send a direct email to the person you want to inform about your work.  If you don’t think that would be effective or well-received, don’t CC on the messages either.

You may create or add to hostility

Will the original recipient view the CC as a way of tattling on them or emphasizing your status?  Your message can go from merely irritating to infuriating if the recipient thinks you are trying to get him or her in trouble or implying that you and the boss are in close contact.  Unnecessarily CC’ing a person higher up on a message can be like waving a red flag in front of the direct recipient.

You may stir up trouble

Is the message likely to create conflict? If you know or are reasonably sure that what you are sending will create negative feelings for those being copied or for direct recipients, don’t do it.  If you are venting and you only want the maximum audience, don’t do it. If you don’t have the courage to say something face to face, but you figure you can get by with it and sound tough by email, don’t do it.

If there is something going on that needs to be confronted, do it in person or by phone. If documentation is needed, follow-up with an email or an email with a document attached.

Some alternatives to CC

Instead of CC’ing someone, forward the original. Forwarding  allows you to add a message specifically for the recipient. It also prevents the recipient of the forwarded email from an awkward “Reply All” , which sometimes happens on copied mail. 

If you CC, consider saying in the message why you are doing it.  “I’m copying Bill on this, since he has to give approval next.” If you can’t think of a succinct reason for copying someone, don’t copy them. (How does this sound? “I’m copying Kristie, so she will see what I’m having to put up with.” Or, “I’m copying Chuck, so he’ll know I’m working hard on this project.” Or, “Kyle, I’m copying Vernon so you know I have his support. Nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Blind Copy, to avoid having all the recipients known.  When someone is blind copied their email address is not seen by direct recipients. This can be useful in many circumstances and is a valid action in some cases. However, it can have drawbacks as well. For example, it can seem sneaky, if the person you blind copied then writes directly to the person you were emailing or accidentally sends a “Reply All” message.  It is wise to send a direct message to the Blind Copied person telling them why you have done it that way.  (Forwarding the original can achieve the same purpose, without taking much more time.)

Make CC’ing a useful tool

Being able to send several people the same message at the same time is one of the great benefits of email. Use it unnecessarily or as a weapon and not only will your emails be dreaded by many people, you will lose credibility. Use it wisely and you will be considered efficient and effective by several people at once!

May 16th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 8 comments


  1. Excellent advice. I like the idea of forwarding with a personal note when it is FYI.

    I sent the Rah-Rah meeting link to a friend and who thinks you have been spying on the meetings in his office!

    Comment by Careerist | May 16, 2010

  2. Tina says: Thanks for commenting, Careerist! I’ve heard from several people who said I must have been in their meetings. I get around, but not that much!

    Comment by TLR | May 16, 2010

  3. After you talked about this in the last supervisor’s class I started monitoring the CC’d messages I received, and you were right…a lot of them were unnecessary for me to read and some of them obviously had hidden agendas. I think a lot of us have gotten into the habit of copying everyone who might be involved in any way, so we don’t accidentally leave anyone out.

    Also, some people sound like they’re working hard just because they are sending emails and I guess the rest of us feel like we should too. I’ve been guilty of that myself. You’re right though, email isn’t the problem, people are the problems! P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | May 17, 2010

  4. If I didn’t get copied on every message around here I wouldn’t have any email. I used to write back and ask why I was copied, but that made me sound surly. Then I tried reading most of every message trying to figure out if I needed to read all of it, but that didn’t make sense. Now I just look to see who it’s from and that’s usually the clue for whether it can be deleted or not.

    Comment by Wiseacre | May 17, 2010

  5. Thanks for the interesting class yesterday! I wanted to talk to you afterwards but had to get back to work. Loved the photos! My Mom has some like that and we laugh about how much leg was showing!!

    You mentioned about the email feuds and it was so close to what is happening in a place I know about, that I thought at first you had gotten their emails! In the one I know about the people send after hours, because they know it will be on the Blackberry of the other person and bother them at home. Sad, really.

    Thanks again, I hope you come back soon!

    Comment by Greeley Employee | May 19, 2010

  6. Another idea is to think before you write an email at all, unless there is a business purpose. Emails that are mostly about “look what I’m doing” are a waste of time and sound needy.

    Comment by Rizzo | May 21, 2010

  7. As a manager, if I’m copied inappropriately for the reasons you mention, I write to the sender and give them the guidline for when to copy me, which is when I’ve requested it or when I clearly must be informed. I also **gently** remind them of how it could seem to others that they copied me. If it continues I meet with them about it.

    I mention that to say that the person being CCed shouldn’t just delete, they need to do something productive if it’s causing problems, in my opinion.

    Comment by Meeker | September 1, 2010

  8. Tina says: Thanks to all of you for your comments! They all added to the discussion.

    Meeker, thank you for the thought about the role of the person being copied. Keep commenting!

    The rest of you should keep commenting too! 🙂

    Comment by TLR | September 1, 2010

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