There are some common pitfalls mailers make when designing and addressing mail that can cost you additional postage, potentially delay delivery, or both. Are you making any of these common error? And, if so, how can you correct them?

  1. Print or Graphics in the Bar Code Clear Zone. Unless you are printing and address block Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb), a clear space is required in order for the IMb to be sprayed on the envelope and to mail at the discounted automation rates. This clear space, measured from the bottom right corner of the letter, must be 4 3/4″ wide by 5/8″ high. This area should contain no print or graphics.
  2. Address Formatting. Addresses are preferred in all CAPS and 8-12 point font is recommended. Format your address from bottom to top with the most general information at the bottom (city – state-zip) and the most specific information at the top (recipient name).
  3. Extraneous Print in Address Block. Non-address information in the address block can “confuse” presort equipment and cause an address to not be read. This includes words like “Pay to” to the left of the address, underlining the delivery address, or having the salutation line directly below the city-state-zip.
  4. Handwritten Addresses. While sorting technology has improved greatly over the past 20 years, handwritten mail still has difficulty reading due to the inherent nature and plethora of character variations. The best solution to ensure timely delivery is to affix a typed address label.
  5. Self-Mailer Construction. The USPS has many variations for folded self-mailers and booklets and slight design variations can cause changes in tabbing and mailing requirements. Whenever designing a self-mailer or booklet, always check the USPS website to ensure your pieces is eligible for automation rates.
  6. Postcard Design. Non-automation postcard design is a common issue that can cost mailers money, and postage corrections can make your beautiful design look messy. Make sure your postcard has a barcode clear zone (see topic #1), make sure the center line does not fall into the barcode clear zone, and – if not printing an address block IMB – make sure the address side is non-glossy in order for a legible barcode to be sprayed.
  7. Shifting Contents. Contents shifting within the envelope can cause an address to not be read and enter a manual process at the USPS on an otherwise well-formatted address. If your contents are shifting, adjusting the fold slightly may correct it.
  8. Address Placement on Flats. The delivery address should be parallel to the postage. The USPS has added regulations regarding where the delivery address should be placed on flats. Please see the Postal Information Sheet for more information.
  9. Return Address Placement. The return address should be smaller than the delivery address and located outside of the OCR read area (or area where sorting equipment looks for the delivery address). The return address on a #10 letter should be in the top 1/3 of the envelope and more than 2 ¾” from the bottom. Return addresses incorrectly placed can inadvertently cause a mail piece to be sent back to you instead of to your customer.
  10. Background Color/Contrast. White and pastel backgrounds are ideal. Darker colored backgrounds and those with texture, print, whitewashed graphics, or even check security backgrounds can cause postal and presort equipment difficulty in discerning the address characters. A knock out area for the address is a great way to ensure document security and maximize postal discounts!

When designing a postcard, self-mailer or booklet, you can always contact your CMS Customer Service Representative for assistance. All CMS Customer Service personnel are certified by the USPS as Mail Design Professionals.