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Definitions and Design Tips

Definitions and Design Tips for Pre-sorted Standard and 1st Class Mail

What Category is the Mail Piece?

Postal rates and other specifications vary depending on the category of the mail piece. Weight, size, proportions, thickness, wrapping material and other factors determine the category.

"Postcard" means a 1-ply card or a 2-ply (double) card if one half of it is a mail response card. (But note, a "double card" is classified as a "letter" if both halves are used for the response card.)

To be eligible for the first class postcard rate, the piece must be:
- rectangular; not less than 3 1/2" high, 5" long and .007" thick
- not more than 4 1/4" high, 6" long and .016" thick

If the postcard is double, it must be tabbed, wafer sealed, tape stripped or glue spotted at the center of the open edge. It is preferred that the open edge be at the top of the postcard. (The open edge must be at the top if it is a "double card" in which both halves are used for the response.)

There is no special bulk "postcard rate" but if you meet the other requirements, the mailing may qualify for the pre-sorted standard letter rate. So, if you've got 200 or more pieces, consider the marketing advantages of mailing an oversize postcard... at cheaper than normal postcard rates!

"Letter-size" means self-mailers, booklets, envelopes, and oversized postcards exceeding 4 1/4" in height or 6" in length.

To be eligible for letter-size rates the piece must be:
- rectangular; height must not be less than 3 1/2" or more than 6 1/8"
- length must not be less than 5" or more than 11 1/2"
- thickness must be at least .009 if the piece is more than 4 1/4" high or
  more than 6" long

A piece is considered "non-standard" (even if it is less than 1 ounce), and will be subject to an added surcharge if it is:
- more than 6 1/8" high
- longer than 11 1/2"
- thicker than 1/4"
- not within a 1:3 and 2:5 aspect ratio

To calculate aspect ratio, divide length by height. The length of the mail piece is determined by the delivery address position; the address is printed on the length of the mail piece.

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Layout of Delivery & Return Address Blocks

Addresses and bar codes and other clear spaces must be positioned in compliance with technical guidelines.

The delivery address block must be set away from the right margin by at least 1/2" and from the bottom edge of the mail piece by at least 5/8". The bar code must be less than 4" from the bottom edge.

The bar code must be set apart from the address block by at least 1/25". There must be a clear space of at least 1/25" above and below the bar code, and a clear space of at least 1/8" on each side of it. These clear spaces are required whether the bar code is printed directly on the mail piece, on a mailing label, or on an enclosure within a window envelope. It is preferable to position the bar code above the address.

The right bottom edge of the mail piece must preserve a clear space which is at least 3 1/2" long and x 2 1/2" high; USPS reads the addressing info and prints a bar code there.

The sender's return address must be printed in the top left corner on the mail piece.

Materials to Avoid

The postal service uses high-speed automation, optical scanning, and bar code processing. Certain materials and colors are incompatible with those processes, or may prevent postal-applied bar codes from drying rapidly. For that reason, avoid:

- coverings such as shrink wrap and other plastic-like coverings
  (except for flats);
- dark fibers or background patterns, and fluorescent paper;
- textured paper that cause broken characters or smudges;
- and non-opaque paper that allows printing on the inside of the mail piece to
  show through in the address or bar code zones