* Always CC Yourself

Why you should send yourself a copy of your email messages.

Recently, a vendor of mine was having email problems and didn’t realize it. They were supposed to email me details about a particular service that I’d purchased, but the email never arrived. When I asked a customer service representative to re-send the email and to cc himself on the email, he replied that it wasn’t necessary to cc himself on email because “the message is right here in my outbox.” I explain that if he cc-ed himself, then we could debug the email problem. At one point, he claimed that their system had sent the message three times. I don’t doubt that he might have clicked the “send” button three times, but I do doubt that the “send” button was actually working.

I tested my email (cc-ing myself, naturally) from inside and outside of my office (for example, by sending a message from my Yahoo email account), which arrived just fine.

I filter my email for spam at both the client (with Eudora) and the server (with SpamAssassin) level. All email is delivered and suspected spam is marked as such. If your email address or domain name is on my white list, as was the case for this vendor, then your email will never be marked as spam.

I could exchange email with individuals who worked at the vendor but not with their automated system. This problem would have been very easy to debug if they simply cc-ed themselves – always.

In any event, you should always cc yourself on email messages, for a lot of reasons, including the following:

  1. Debugging. Messages in your email outbox (or “sent mail” folder or the like) have merely been transferred from one place on your computer to another place on your computer. If you cc yourself, on the other hand, your messages will pass through your mail server, and then you can view the full headers of the email message and see the path that the email took from the source to the destination. This can help in debugging cases where one party (like my vendor) has a broken email system but doesn’t realize it.
  2. Evidence. I doubt that any court would accept “it’s in my outbox” as evidence of an email’s successful transmission, but I’m pretty sure that a court (perhaps with the help of a smart expert witness) would accept a message cc-ed to yourself as evidence of transmission.
  3. Threading. When you have an email exchange about a particular topic, it is often helpful to review that topic in threaded (or even simply chronological order). By cc-ing yourself, you can review a full conversation in one mailbox. If your “sent” messages are in your outbox and your other messages are in your “read” mailbox, then you have to toggle between the two mailboxes to read the entire conversation. Good luck trying to unscramble those eggs.
  4. Proofing. How many times have you mistyped an email address? How many times have you typed “attached is the document you requested” only to realize that you never actually attached the document? When you cc yourself, it is good practice to reread the message that you just sent. You’ll notice mistyped email addresses, typos, misspellings, and omitted attachments. All of which can be quickly remedied by resending a corrected message.
  5. Email portability. Email that you receive is likely to be in some standardized format. Email that you sent, not so likely. So if you need to move all of your email from one email client to another, then it will be a lot earlier to move your “read” email than your “sent” email.

Since 01/01/2002, I have been cc-ing myself on all of my email. In Eudora, it’s simple to set up a stationery file to automatically cc yourself on every new message you compose. I wish that I had been doing it earlier, since I have email dating back to 1992, much of which is in my (mostly useless) “sent” mailboxes.

Oh yes, I never did get an automated message from that vendor, and I’m not likely to do business with them again.

It is good etiquette to cc yourself on email – always.

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3 Replies to “* Always CC Yourself”

  1. Look, cc’ing yourself is annoying. Never do this. If you must, then bcc yourself, but cc’ing yourself is confusing to recipients. The author shouldn’t be in the cc line. Really, that’s the end of it.

  2. Greetings Jason,

    Been meaning to reply (to https://www.giantpeople.com/?p=682#comment-195587) for a while.

    1. Debugging. Yes it does. Messages in your outbox haven’t left your computer. Those that you get from cc-ing yourself have. The latter have metadata in the header, the former do not.

    2. Evidence. No it’s not. For precisely the reason stated in #1. Third party metadata exists in cc-ed message, not in your sent box.

    3. Threading. I do both, but that’s kind of beside the point. Most email clients don’t thread sent mail with read mail. Gmail is a notable exception. And it’s only “wasting” disk space if you keep two copies. I can delete all of my sent mail because copies exist in my other mailboxes. (But disk space is cheap.)

    4. Proofing. Um, OK. I do read my messages before sending them. Guess what? I still make mistakes. So do you. Reading them twice catches some of those mistakes. (About twice as many as reading them once, I imagine.)

    5. Portability. I’m taking about standardized formats for the mailbox data. If you’ve ever moved from one mail program to another, you know what I’m talking about. The “sent” stuff is all in nonstandard format (i.e. no RFC 821-compliant headers), sometimes making the transfer impossible.

    Thanks for reading.


  3. 1. It doesn’t do much for debugging, b/c you’re still going to have to investigate the actual problem at the server level. A quick look at the logs/queues can confirm that a server is functioning properly. This is something that should be monitored, regardless of whether or not you CC yourself.

    2. An extra email in your Inbox is every bit as good as the email in your Sent Items, in the Courts’ eyes.

    3. If you’re quoting the relevent thread in your outgoing email, you’ll be able to keep track of it w/o wasting all that server space.

    4. Read the email before you send it, and this won’t be a problem. F7 is your friend.

    5. The email you receive from yourself will be the in the same format as you sent it, unless otherwise specified. If you sent it in HTML, it will arrive in HTML. Same goes for Rich Text or Plain Text.

    Somewhere out there, there’s an IT Manager throwing darts at a photo of your head b/c you’re using twice as much storage space as you should be.

    Maybe this isn’t such a big deal for small firms, but a 100+ user corporation w/ an Exchange server would end up spending a significant amount of money in storage space.

    CCing may better help you organize, but it accomplishes nothing positive in the grand scheme of things.

    And to demonstrate that: If it did accomplish something, your vendor would’ve identified and corrected his/her problem.

    And FWIW, the general concensus I’ve gathered from people I’ve talked w/ is that CCing yourself gives them a feeling of mistrust, as if you don’t expect them to comply w/ what’s been requested.

    Just a thought.

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