DM News' Deliver: Tips on Preparing Mail

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Careful preparation of mail helps ensure accurate, safe delivery. Preparing mail according to U.S. Postal Service standards lets the piece be processed more efficiently.

The most important element to any mailing is the correct, complete and accurate address. Addressing also should include a return address, correct ZIP code and clear, legible writing or printing. The USPS classifies mail by the way it is prepared, based on how efficiently the mail can be processed on postal service equipment. Preparation also affects the rate charged.

There are three categories:

· Machinable: Mail that has an accurate address and can be processed on equipment is "machinable" and eligible for discounted presort rates. It must meet specific standards, including size, shape and weight.

· Nonmachinable: A surcharge can be placed on mail that does not meet machinable standards. Non-machinable letters require extra steps when mail is sorted. Examples include mail that is polybagged, polywrapped or enclosed in plastic material or has clasps, strings or buttons.

· Automation: Postage discounts can be applied if the mail piece meets automation standards, is machinable and displays the correct barcode.

To receive automation rates for cards and letters, all pieces in the mailing must have a delivery point barcode. Automation-rate flats need a delivery point barcode or a ZIP+4 barcode. All barcodes must meet placement, size and legibility standards. Software is available for printing barcodes from an address list.

Those mailing larger volumes of mail and who are willing to invest time learning more about preparing and sorting mail might qualify for lower postage rates. At least 200 newsletters, fliers or ads or 500 or more postcards, letters or invoices must be mailed at the same time. "Bulk mail" rates then would apply.

Some businesses specialize in designing, preparing and sorting mail. These businesses, called mail service providers, can help with a single part of a discount mailing or can be hired to handle the entire mailing: address lists, managing address databases, designing and printing the piece, sorting mail pieces and "delivering" the mail to the postal service mail stream.

For more detailed information on qualifying for discount rates and preparing mail, please visit and click on Domestic Mail Manual.

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