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The Innocent Dropping of Ccs in Email

The other day in a class about writing more efficient email, we were talking about Ccs (courtesy copies) and the use of Reply to All. One attendee bemoaned the fact that people purposely dropped her boss off the Cc list. She wanted her boss there to keep him informed. So why did people not Reply to All and keep him in the loop? Were they trying to get away with something?

Nope. They were trying to help everyone be more efficient by reducing the use of Reply to All. Or they were just replying to her because she wrote to them–he didn't.

Not Replying to All can be a conscious good choice, or it can be an unconscious automatic choice. It doesn't have to be a sneaky or calculated one.

Here's the solution if you want your boss to read the replies you receive: forward them to him or her. If it is important that your boss read them, it is probably worth that small effort.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

9 comments on “The Innocent Dropping of Ccs in Email”

  • It irritates me greatly when I receive emails I did not have to be copied in on and when the sender hits the Reply To All button without really considering if everyone on the list needs to be on reply. I think it is lazy and inconsiderate.

  • I agree that is it irritating. I am always surprised at the emails I receive that have also gone to dozens of other people, with their email addresses exposed on the To and Cc lines. This doesn’t happen frequently in my business emails, but it does in email involving social groups and extracurricular activities. If I were a spammer, I could get plenty of email addresses by copying them from other people’s To and Cc lines.

    I don’t know whether people are being lazy and inconsiderate, but the behavior comes across as inefficient and unprofessional. It doesn’t leave the impression of competence and good organization skill.

    Thanks for commenting, Miss O.


  • I agree that with “joke” emails to multiple persons, use BCC. I hate it when I get emails with several pages in an email with several different sends. I usually just delete those without scrolling all the way down. But in business, it’s not lazy and inconsiderate to include people that you think might need to know what’s in the email. (Worse is when a group of developers have been emailing back and forth about an important issue and “forgot” to include the technical writer or assumed she didn’t need to know–let her make that decision!) The recipients can delete the email or ignore it as necessary. Don’t tell me they don’t have time to scan/read emails–it’s part of your dang job!! Don’t make the other person’s poor time management skills my problem.

  • I’m afraid I’m showing my age when I remind people that CC: originally stood for Carbon Copy. That’s back in the days before copiers came into use. A secretary would put pieces of carbon paper between several sheets of typewriter paper, behind the letterhead paper, and then type the letter on a manual typewriter. The CC: at the bottom of the letter always included the names and the carbon copies were distributed to them through the inter-office mail. My how times have changed! I have never seen CC: referred to as courtesy copies, but I guess that’s the new term now.

  • Hi, Karla. Thanks for sharing your view. You’re right that it makes sense to copy people who may need the information. I like your example of the technical writer.

    Your point of view doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. That is because of the overwhelming number of unnecessary replies to all that are driving people nuts.


  • Hi, Jeannette. Yes, the Cc now stands for “courtesy copy.” When carbon paper became insignificant, we needed a word for that second c.

    With all the unnecessary copies in email, I think it sometimes stands for “crazy copies.”

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • Hi Lynn. Here’s another reason to use BCC in email when you have a large distribution – spammers lift the email addresses off large distribution lists. They also are alerted if it has FW: in the Subject line.

    This comes in play more often with personal emails where friends send jokes (at least I hope they are personal email & not done at work).

  • I train my company employees on Intellectual Property matters. The problem with the “Reply to All” is that not everyone on the list should be included. Often, we have legal reasons for not doing so as we don’t want to invalidate trade secrets or send confidential information to those who do not need to know. My training advice is always look at the list and make a decision if those on the list really need to get your feedback.
    As to BCC: it should be name “blindside me.”

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