When replying to an email with others CCed in it, do I address the sender only, e.g. Dear Sam, or address everyone, e.g. Dear all?

  • Was the original email addressed to you, or to everyone? Jul 18, 2017 at 23:07
  • @LaconicDroid it was addressed to me, so should I do the same and address the sender only and keep the other cced?
    – user52773
    Jul 18, 2017 at 23:15
  • @user52773 Based on that, I would have given the same answer as Joe Strazzere, below. Jul 18, 2017 at 23:29
  • Rule of thumb; address those in the "To" list, not those in the "CC" list.
    – quant
    Jan 1, 2021 at 2:15

7 Answers 7


It's really context dependent.

Typically, the To/CC lines will give you a good indication. If there is a group of people in the To, generally that's a group conversation. If there is a single To but a group in the CC, typically that's a individual conversation with others being kept abreast.

If the communication is primarily between the two of you with other's cc'd to ensure they're aware of the communication, address it to the individual.

As a common example, you request information from me and cc your boss and my boss. I will reply all but address you specifically, unless I need/want information from one of our bosses. (Common etiquette would say I can request info from my boss, but should probably address questions I expect only your boss can answer to you and allow you to escalate).

To: user74164 CC: YourBoss, MyBoss


Yes, coversheets are now mandatory on all TPS reports.

If you're talking to the group, address it to the group.


To: user74164, MyBoss, YourBoss, SubjectMatterExpert, ProjectManager CC: VP, PotUS



I need your TPS reports (WITH COVERSHEETS!!!!) ASAP.

If you really don't know what to do, just don't address the email to anyone. I would guess that 50% of my replies are not formally addressed to anyone in particular.

To: user74164, MyBoss, YourBoss, SubjectMatterExpert, ProjectManager

TPS coversheets shall be in 11.5 pt font.

Occasionally, you need to address multiple people.

To: Joe, Sue CC: MyBoss, user74164, ProjectManager

Joe and Sue,

I need TPS coversheets in 11.5 pt font ASAP!

works, however, sometimes it can be better to

To: Joe, Sue CC: MyBoss, user74164, ProjectManager


Can you please provide your TPS coversheet ASAP.


Your TPS coversheet is in 12 pt font instead of the appropriate 11.5 pt font. Please remedy.

  • 4
    I don't think that last one is a good idea. If people see the main addressee is not themselves, they are likely to skim or ignore the mail and they won't catch the second opening further down. You might be better off sending two mails at that point.
    – Erik
    Jul 19, 2017 at 6:55
  • 1
    Final example is a matter of personal taste, IMHO. If it's the norm in a given office, it should be fine. If it's not the norm in your office, adjust as required. +1 for the TPS reports, though. ;)
    – Steve-O
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:41

Some good rules of thumb to follow

  • Address people on the "to" list
  • Put people on the "to" list that need to know and are directly involved
  • Put people on the "CC" list who need to be aware of what is going on but are not directly involved: People you are keeping "in the loop"
  • Only address people on the "CC" list if you are bringing up a topic that involves then. "By the way Joe, our meeting on this issue has been moved to 2pm"
  • If you are addressing more than three people, "all" or "team" is acceptable

when replying to an email with others cced in it do I address the sender only i.e. Dear Sam, or address everyone i.e. Dear all?

Address it only to the sender.


CC means Carbon Copy.

It usually denotes recipients that should receive a copy, but to which the original message is not addressed.

Hence, you just address everyone in the 'To:' field, and that is. In some cases you may want to let people know that some people have been included as CC. And, of course, you never mention anyone in BCC.


It is often not immediately obvious when reading a email that you got it only because you were on the CC list. Therefore, as a courtesy to those CCed, I usually address the main recipient directly at top.

For example, if I'm sending a email to Gustav and CCing to Takashi and Naresh, then I'll start with something like "Gustav, the bobulator is ...". That way Takashi and Naresh immediately see they are being copied in a message from me to Gustav.


My standard practise is to add the people who need to read the email.

If my boss/someone above me sent it, I'll include everyone as he did. If a colleague sent it, I'll usually check the to/CC to see if anyone is on the list unnecessary

For example, no matter how many people are in the To/CC, I'll do

Hi, Matt, Emily <- List of people I'm taking to

I've done x, y, z. The commit is in git v0.03. <- comment to both

Matt, What do you think of a, b? <- comment to one recipient

Emily, Can we test these changes this afternoon? <- comment to another recipient.



This way, people can check the Hi line to see if their name is there. If not, they don't have to read the email. If their name is there, they can check further down to find their name.

I usually keep their names on the left, at the start of a new paragraph so someone skim reading can find their name.

I generally also keep my emails short and concise, and only group relevant things together in one email (different subject/project/etc different email).

  • I feel that having orthogonal points in an email is not a good idea. You are asking both Emily and Matt to read things that are irrelevant to each other and increasing the chance that Emily will skip reading the email because the part relevant to her is not directly obvious.
    – Peter M
    Jul 19, 2017 at 11:35
  • @PeterM The intention of my last paragraph was to address this. The idea is that Emily and I would be testing x,y,z. If they were completely not related, I would start a new email thread. This is also why I try to keep the points short, so that people don't have trouble finding their name.
    – user5621
    Jul 19, 2017 at 12:32
  • I understand what you are saying but i think that your example is problematic as it assumes that Emily knows that this email is about her tasks on x,y,z. If Emily doesn't make that mental connection then that is where issues start.
    – Peter M
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:11
  • @PeterM I'm assuming people will read the email addressed to them. This is just an example and I usually attempt to connect things together to a reasonable extent. I'll change the example to reflect this. Receiving parties need to do due diligence in at least attempting to parse the information received. I have used this format for years and never run into any trouble.
    – user5621
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:21

I put Dear All just to make Everyone aware. Best thing to do I think.

  • 3
    If you're really addressing all, then they should all be direct recipients, not CCs. Jul 19, 2017 at 10:54

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