Carbon copy

Carbon copy
A copy made with carbon paper

Carbon copying, abbreviated cc or c.c., is the technique of using carbon paper to produce one or more copies simultaneously during the creation of paper documents. With the advent of email, the term has also come to refer to simultaneously sending copies of an electronic message to secondary recipients.



A sheet of carbon paper is placed between two sheets of paper and the pressure applied by the writing implement (pen, pencil, typewriter or impact printer) to the top sheet causes pigment from the carbon paper to make a similar mark on the copy. More than one copy can be made by stacking several sheets with carbon paper between each pair. Four or five copies is a practical limit. The top sheet is the original and each of the additional sheets is called a carbon copy.

The use of carbon copies declined with the advent of photocopying and electronic document creation and distribution (word processing). Carbon copies are still used in special applications, for example, in manual receipt books which have a multiple-use sheet of carbon paper supplied, in order that the user can keep an exact copy of each receipt issued, although even here carbonless copy paper is often used to the same effect.

It is still common for a business letter to include, at the end, a list of names preceded by the abbreviation "cc:", indicating that the named persons are to receive copies of the letter, even though carbon paper is no longer used to make the copies. (An alternative etymology is that "c:" was used for copy and "cc:" indicates the plural, just as "p." means page and "pp." means pages.)

The term "carbon copy" can be used in reference to anything that was a near duplicate of an original ("...and you want to turn him into a carbon copy of every fourth-rate conformist in this frightened land!", Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land).


In e-mail, the abbreviation CC indicates those who are to receive a copy of a message addressed primarily to another. The list of CCed recipients is visible to all other recipients of the message. An additional BCC (blind carbon copy) field is available for hidden notification; recipients listed in the BCC field receive a copy of the message, but are not shown on any other recipient's copy (including other BCC recipients). It is considered good practice to indicate to the other recipients that a new participant has been added to the list of receivers (e.g. by writing "I have CCed Rudolf Grabner").

In common usage, the To field recipients are the primary audience of the message, CC field recipients are others whom the author wishes to publicly inform of the message, and BCC field recipients are those surreptitiously being informed of the communication.[1] Additionally, an LCC field (for "List Courtesy Copy') is available for e-mail distribution lists that, like BCC, hides the full recipient list but, unlike BCC, alerts recipients that other unnamed members of the list have been included in the distribution.[2]


Dot matrix and daisy wheel printers are also able to use carbon paper to produce multiple copies of a document in one pass, and most models feature adjustable impact power and head spacing to accommodate up to three copies plus the original printout. Usually, this feature is used in conjunction with continuous, prearranged perforated paper and carbon supplies for use with a tractor feeder, rather than with single sheets of paper, for example, when printing out commercial invoices or receipts.

See also


  1. ^ Resnick, Pete (April 2001). "RFC 2822 - Internet Message Format". The Internet Society. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  2. ^

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • carbon copy — ˌcarbon ˈcopy noun [countable] 1. a copy of a document made using carbon paper 2. be a carbon copy of something if something is a carbon copy of something else, it is very similar 3. cc COMPUTING a copy of an email message; ➔ Blind Carbon Copy …   Financial and business terms

  • carbon copy — carbon copies 1) N COUNT: usu N of n If you say that one person or thing is a carbon copy of another, you mean that they look or behave exactly like them. She s a carbon copy of her mother... Theresa s first marriage was almost a carbon copy of… …   English dictionary

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  • carbon copy — 1895, from CARBON (Cf. carbon) + COPY (Cf. copy). The fig. sense is from 1944 …   Etymology dictionary

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