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“cc” vs. “cc’ed” vs. “copy” — The Complete Guide

“cc” vs. “cc’ed” vs. “copy” — The Complete Guide

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A young non-native speaker of English just got hired in a multinational company as an intern. 

As she was reading her first email from her manager, she suddenly got caught up with a line that read “…please don’t forget to cc me…”

Three hours later, she was still searching for relevant information about “cc,” and maybe she even landed on this post because of that.

Hi, there! Thanks for reaching our humble site. Please read on to uncover the subtleties behind this business jargon.


What do we mean by “cc?”

In business correspondence, “cc” traditionally means “carbon copy,” but recently, more people have become comfortable with “courtesy copy” instead because of the former’s obsolete connotation. Whether you prefer the former or the latter, the function of this abbreviation stays the same which is to duplicate a file or an email message for other people’s reference.


The implications, function, and usage of “cc” in emails

Whether we like it or not, technological advancements indeed influence the way we use languages.

One good example of this is the word, or should I say, abbreviation “cc,” which traditionally stands for “carbon copy.”

However, many also prefer the more recently adapted meaning which is “courtesy copy,” as the former has an obsolete, and therefore non-functional, connotation.

Apparently, you can always call it however you like as long as you’re not causing any misinterpretation or misinformation to the message recipient.

Going back to the introductory story of this post, the intern could’ve avoided spending much time understanding “cc” if the background context was keenly considered.

There are many possible ways to reconcile the problem mentioned earlier, in which the first one is to simply ask someone else around for the meaning of “cc.”

Or, the manager could have just avoided using the jargon in the email no matter how common it seems, considering that the email was directed to a newcomer.

We could go on and on with these possible solutions, but the underlying cause is apparent enough to be addressed accordingly.

I mean, yes, “cc” is one of the easiest ones, but the innocent use of jargon, in general, may alienate or intimidate the audience that could then have other repercussions.

These are the reasons why even the abbreviation as simple and common as “cc” has to be used cautiously.

Now, let’s try to make sense of how and when to use “cc” in business correspondence.


The function of “cc”

The “cc” tab in emailing tools provides the user an option to send a copy of the same email to other recipients.

Put simply, it creates digital copies of email messages and files instantaneously, thereby making communication a piece of cake.

All you have to do is add the intended recipient’s email address and press send after you’ve finished your email message.

This works very efficiently when sending messages and files to multiple people at once, like sending a memo to all employees.

But, when sending information to confidential people like clients, it is best to use the “bcc” function instead, which stands for “blind carbon copy.”

This can be done when you don’t want unwanted eyes peeking on the email addresses you’ve sent your confidential email to.

And because the “cc” function is used regularly in correspondence, many people tend to use it as a verb to refer to the act of sending a copy of the same email to another person.

This has now become a relatively new business jargon that may not be immediately understood by people who do not use emails frequently.

But, when these words are used appropriately within individuals who speak the same business language, then it definitely saves time and energy.

Now that we’ve understood its implications, let’s also compare how to use “cc” and its two major variations, “cc’ed” and “copy.”


The usage of “cc” vs. “cc’ed” vs. “copy”

Although “carbon copy” and “courtesy copy” are noun phrases, “cc” is generally used rather as a verb that can be inflected depending on the intended tense.

So, when we need to “cc” someone, that simply means we have to send that person a copy of the email or file that is being referred to.

Please don’t forget to cc me with that memo when you’re done.

And, if we want to use it in its past form, then we should add “-d” or “-ed” after “cc” to do that.

The between “-d” or “-ed” is dependent on what can be easily understood by the language community you need to interact with.

He accidentally cc’d me with something confidential yesterday.
I was accidentally cc’ed with something confidential yesterday.

If you think the receiver is likely going to have some confusion when you use “cc,” you can simply modify your sentence by paraphrasing.

He accidentally sent me a copy of something confidential yesterday.

The sentence above would be the least ambiguous way to construct the sentence, and therefore, encouraged.

However, others don’t find any problem with the next sentence below, so it can also be another option.

He accidentally copied something confidential yesterday.

Native speakers mostly wouldn’t treat the example above as problematic because the implied meaning is understandable.

But, if this type of construction is going to be applied in a setting with a diverse linguistic background, then it could gain some unnecessary attention.

For smoother communications, a company could create a list of the jargon that they often use and make it accessible to everyone.


Variations of “cc”

In this section, you will find several variations of writing “cc” as a verb. 

This should help you gain more understanding of how a single word could be written in several ways, which is a natural characteristic of language.



The first is inflecting “cc” in a progressive tense which entails the addition of the suffix “-ing,” as well as a dash for clarity.

Are you really cc-ing the accounting department with your concern?

Another accepted option is to use an apostrophe instead of a dash.

Yes. I’m cc’ing them so they will know that I’m not doing it behind their back.



One way to form the simple past tense of “cc” is also by using a dash instead of an apostrophe.

Yes, I cc-ed all the department heads.



Or, you can use the uppercase rather than the lowercase when writing “cc” in its past form.

Some people prefer writing it this way to make it more formal and easier to read.

I made sure all the department heads were CC’ed.



But, when communicating among peers who won’t necessarily misinterpret the message, you can make the past tense as short as “cc’d.”

This is one character shorter than the earlier versions mentioned, and therefore, more convenient to use.

Hi, Jane! Kindly assist the cc’d personnel on their request. 



The last known variation of writing “cc” in emails is “cc:’d,” which is simply the simple past form.

Adding the colon could also prompt easier understanding, especially to those people who are more familiar with this structure. 

You could have just cc:’d everyone instead of forwarding the email one by one.

The point of this overall section is simply to present the different variations of “cc” according to how they might be used by various groups of people.

That said, it is still worth noting that there isn’t a single standardized way to represent “cc” as of now, and that’s why several variations exist.

Therefore, the best action to take is to prioritize the readability, as well as the audience of your message.

And, if you think that some chance of misinterpretation could happen, the default process is simply to write the sentence completely and avoid using jargon.


Other meanings of “cc” in English

Although most people would immediately associate “cc” with “carbon copy” or “courtesy copy,” other groups of people might have another schema of it.

Two of the other most common associations of “cc” are “closed captioning” and “cubic centimeter.”


“CC” as closed captioning

Closed captioning refers to the process of adding subtitles or textual displays on your monitor or video screen.

This means that while most people may understand “cc” as a duplicate file, a transcriptionist could be misinformed when this abbreviation is used tactlessly.

Can you cc this?

An office worker might respond to the question above with “to whom,” but a medical transcriptionist might say “sorry, but I’m still working on another file.”

Apparently, the context will play a significant role when making sense of the question above.

Nevertheless, we still need to cautiously use “cc” in our conversations.


Cubic centimeter

The other commonly associated meaning of “cc” is “cubic centimeter” which is often used in measuring the capacity of a container to hold liquid.

You might have heard of this in your physics or mathematics class before, as well as from any medical personnel referring to the size of the syringe they need to use.

Therefore, when “cc” is used unconsciously and carelessly, it could also create some confusion to others who have a different schema of the abbreviation “cc.”


Frequently Asked Questions on “CC vs CC’ed vs Copy”


How do we say we “cc’d” someone in an email?

If we are using the verb “cc” to a message recipient who is likely to be familiar with this term, then you can inform the person by saying “I have cc’d person A.” However, to avoid alienating anyone who isn’t familiar with this abbreviation, you can simply say “I have sent a copy of the memo to person A.”


What is meant by “I have cc’d my manager?”

“To have cc’d the manager” means that a copy of the information or file has been forwarded to the manager even if he or she isn’t the direct recipient. Doing so makes the manager aware of the content of the email, as well as keep a copy of it.


What do we mean by “carbon copy?”

“Carbon copy” simply means a duplicate file of an original one. The process of carbon copying was popular during the pre-digital age when typewriters were the means of creating files. A file can be duplicated by placing a carbon paper in between two sheets of paper, and then typing or writing on the first sheet.



The mere existence of the phrases “carbon copy” and “courtesy copy” highlights the idea that language indeed evolves through time.

Whereas, people’s preference of one over the other suggests that the past is as equally important as the present and the future.