Know your email etiquette: To CC, or not to CC?


Know your email etiquette: To CC, or not to CC?

An empty shelf. A partially-filled desk drawer. These are things that businesspeople are drawn, sometimes compelled, to fill with stuff. For some workers, empty is uncomfortable and they will put items in a vacant space just because it’s there.

In the world of email, the CC (carbon copy) field is an empty space that email senders often fill unnecessarily with names, particularly those of their leaders.

Copying others on an email is not always the wrong choice, but it should not be the default thing that you do. Below are some CC alternatives that I think you’ll find will keep everyone in the loop in more meaningful ways.

Alternatives to CC

  • Add the information to a list of items to discuss in your next meeting with a team member or manager
  • Consider a single daily or weekly status email to your manager that you save in your Outlook drafts and add to over time. In this way, one email can replace dozens.
  • Put the copied recipient in the To field AND address them by name in the body of the email, specifying the actions they are to take and/or the questions you have for them. No questions for them? Reconsider including them on the email.

CC to the max: REPLY ALL

Avoid the reply all button as if clicking it would cause a zombie apocalypse.

Alternatives to REPLY ALL

  • Reply only to the sender – they started the message and are responsible for collating feedback and delivering it to the group
  • Reply only to the people directly impacted by your response. Delete names from the To: field as appropriate.
  • Never, never, never reply all with a non-substantive message such as “Thanks.” You will have just annoyed a bunch of people.

Spam filters will not save you from colleagues who over-copy or are trigger happy with reply all. Follow the tips above, but make sure to have honest communications with each other about when to copy and when not to. You’ll save yourself a lot of unwanted email.

Video tips

To copy or NOT to copy others on emails?

On average, people receive three times more email than they send – and they’re CC’d on the vast majority of it. In this video, we discuss when to copy someone and when NOT to copy.


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