What Is a “cc”?

I’ve been involved in business writing long enough to remember when a "cc" was actually a carbon copy. I remember the messy blue of the carbon paper showing up on snowy white objects such as a new blouse or crisp business envelopes. I even remember mimeograph machines. Do you?

But for those of you who joined the business world after carbon paper left it, your spelled out version of cc is not colored by history. To you, cc simply means "copy, or copies."

These days, nearly all cc’s come from printers connected to our computers, or from photocopiers. But we still call them cc’s despite the absence of carbon. If you need a reason for that second c, think of them as "courtesy copies."

If you don’t particularly like the abbreviation cc, you have other choices. When copying a message to others, you may indicate copies any of these ways:

cc: Lida Rufino

Copies to: Nadia Ellis
                 Elba Melendez
                 Clifton Wirtz

Copy to: Mrs. E. Gaertner

c: Ms. Knold
    Mr. Perryman
    Dr. Nyugen

Please note that pc is not correct. (That’s ironic, since pc means "politically correct" in the U.S.)

When you send copies to more than one person, list their names alphabetically (by last name) or according to their rank in the organization. For example, in the list directly above, Ms. Knold may be the president; Mr. Perryman, the vice president; and Dr. Nyugen, a director.

Microsoft Outlook uses the abbreviation Cc. According to strict rules, that first capital C is incorrect. However, with its presence everywhere, Cc may soon become the standard.

Yes, office practices and writing standards do evolve, and we can enjoy some of the changes. I miss big old oak desks and filing cabinets. But real carbon copies? Never!

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