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Carbon Copy

Photo: Pavel Krok (Wikimedia Commons)

How sad to think that the only remaining demonstrable vestige of a 200 year old invention to create copies of correspondence is the automaton-like persistence of the many to distribute, often unthinkingly.

For the last 35 years the explosion of electronic mail has increasingly shown little regard for the purpose of using that “carbon copy” let alone any indication of what should be done with it by the recipient. Just think of the potential scale of this ignorance… 145 billion emails sent each day from over 3 billion email accounts. How many millions of times a day are we using “cc” with no or little thought?

I’m not nostalgic for the days of dirty carbon paper.  However, the ease of which we can apparently disown our own intent is frightening.

Thoughtless Purpose

There’s a modern interpretation that says “cc” should be considered as meaning “courtesy copy”.  I kind of get that but really? More often than not there’s no indication of what you should do with the “copy” let alone if it’s worth your time reading it… it feels a bit thoughtless doesn’t it?

Then you you have “bcc” the secret squirrel of email, revealing your correspondence but not who you’ve shared it with… what’s that about? I get its’ utility for a mass mailshot but that is just piggy backing on the technology. Does the collusion show more about ourselves than we intend?

What purpose do we intend when we “cc” or heaven help us “bcc” even?

What if…

So what if carbon paper had never been invented? What if the email we use today didn’t come with the heritage of those inventors of the carbon copy? What would we use instead of “cc” or “bcc“?

Your challenge…

I don’t know about you but I find it a bit tricky to work out a generic alternative… we can mean so many things. So maybe let’s start with that and have a bit of fun with it if we can. I’d love to hear your thoughts on:

What do we actually mean or intend when we use “cc” or “bcc”?

If we didn’t have “cc” or “bcc” then what acronym would you use to describe that intent?

Looking forward to some interesting responses!


8 thoughts on “Carbon Copy

  1. I would go for these two:
    ILT – I loved this. A way of commending something to another.
    MR – Must read. Indicating a more important type of missive.
    More cheeky, you could go for:
    M2M: Manager to minion. For use when delegating work.

    And BTW, this is a great post IMHO. TTFN.


    Posted by simonheath1 | April 15, 2013, 6:06 PM
    • Simon – I love that your list starts with appreciative sharing & endorsement. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think email is dead so I wonder if social media might impact on email so we can distribute it differently in the future?


      Posted by David Goddin | April 16, 2013, 4:32 PM
  2. I’d conflate bcc and cc into bc to describe what most of it is about.

    Back covering


    Posted by Mark Eltringham | April 16, 2013, 7:16 AM
  3. FYI
    I’m responding to you and delegating to another all with one email response (not sure what the abbreviation is there)
    I’m looping you in because I’m hoping you’ll have some good thoughts but don’t worry about it if you don’t (abbreviation?)
    Whoops, I accidentally hit reply all. (abbreviation: @#$@%$!!!)


    Posted by broc.edwards | April 16, 2013, 12:45 PM
    • Love the thinking Broc! Here’s my 2 cents worth…

      SCC – “See the CC” for I’m responding to you and delegating to another all with one email response.

      VYI – “Value Your Input” for I’m looping you in because I’m hoping you’ll have some good thoughts but don’t worry about it if you don’t

      For the last, I’m afraid there’s no abbreviation for carelessness or idiocy!


      Posted by David Goddin | April 16, 2013, 4:36 PM
  4. I’d add to Mark’s comment this one: BS


    Posted by simonheath1 | April 16, 2013, 1:02 PM


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