Grammar Grappler #16: Is it still a carbon copy?

What does cc: actually stand for when referring to emails?

  1. Courtesy copy
  2. Company copy
  3. Carbon copy
  4. Computer copy

Please scroll for the answer:
























The answer is 

  •  Courtesy copy

I’m old enough to remember the days of carbon copies. (In fact, I even remember what it smells like.) But, I do like thinking of cc: as a courtesy copy. Knowing this even helps you determine who gets cc’d. Ask yourself, “Who deserves a courtesy copy of this email?”

The question I’m always asked, however, is how to handle cc’s.

Consider these practical pointers:

  • If you are cc’d, then no response is necessary. You don’t have to write back with “Great!” or “Got it” or “k” or even “Thanks.” The sender does not expect a response—indeed, they don’t want a response. They are simply sending you a courtesy copy. It’s up to you to handle it as you see fit. And, if that means “delete,” go for it. Most people end up wondering, “Why did they include me on this anyway?”
  • If you are a recipient in the To: field, a response may be expected; if you are cc’d, you’ve been sent a courtesy copy for a reason, but there’s no expectation of a response.
  • They copied you for some reason, though. And, one reason you may feel the need to respond is if you read something that’s not accurate or perhaps needs updating. In other words, if you have input for the sake of clarification, it’s great you were cc’d because you can share your corrections and/or feedback.

You may even wish to “courtesy copy” some coworkers on this blog. At least now you can finally get rid of all those sheets of carbon paper.


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Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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