Category Archives: Mail

This above all: be interesting

Be charming. Be compelling. Be enthralling. Be thought provoking. Be on good terms with your thesaurus. Because what that all means is have good content. Resist filler don’t pad pages on web sites, reports, and newsletter items, presentation slides, even email. Be straight to the point, exponential filler is for Tolstoy, not you. Most of what follows refers to web content but it applies to all communication.
Images-we are visual beings. Color printers are faster, cheaper and better than ever. Take advantage of that. No longer must you have formal printed letterhead. But man, don’t use low-resolution images from the web, especially for your logo. If you have good photos use them, if they are not so good, crop and adjust and see if you can make them better. (Don’t start filling your emails with pictures, however.) Use good photos for your presentations or handouts. Please, please, if you are printing san color make your images black and white. Don’t just print color images as black and white, they will not translate well and the piece will lack professional polish.
Ideas-present one idea at a time. That sounds so obvious but it isn’t. It is more important that ever when you think about all the information that is available about everything. Stating an idea and then wending your way to that idea with a bunch of other ideas isn’t going to fly in this day and age of instant information. Think about when you google questions, I click on the hit that appears to be answering my question with the least amount of build-up.
How-as in how is the information received? Consider how the information is consumed; is it on a smart phone, desktop computer, or an iPad? These are things to think about even when sending an email. Sometimes it can be frustrating. Sometimes you have to send a long email. That long email will likely be read on a smart phone if it is sent to more than one person. Not much you can do about it under those circumstances but when you can, be aware of how and what kind of device it is being read on.
Know whom you are creating for. Consider your audience, are they new to your information or are they knowledgeable and looking for more insight. Does that mean you divide up the information in to small digestible parts, A leading to B, to C and so forth? Learn what your target group knows and use the words they use (what will, if on the web become search terms).
Most importantly, whether it be print, slide, web or email, make sure your content is easy to read and the content your audience is looking for easy to find.
Happy Labor Day.


Elusive Brilliance

I had a brilliant idea for this post. Then I forgot it. I told my husband I forgot my brilliant idea, idea #1 that is. And now he’s threatening me with an iPhone and Siri. I wonder if she will keep after me to finish tasks, if so, we might have something then. Here’s the next brilliant idea while I try to remember the first. It’s not my brilliant idea actually it’s my husband’s brilliant idea. When you write an email that is taking the place of a letter that back in the day would have been printed, placed in an enveloped and mailed; write the email as if it were a letter. Put the date, the bricks and mortar address and the proper salutation at the top. Write your copy just like a letter and end it with sincerely and your name, address, email (I know—just do it) and phone number. Two things are happening here. The first, (by the way this is a great way to send a thank you follow up to an interview) is that you are using technology for efficiency. Second, is that you also know how to do things formally. If this is the follow up to an interview, print it out and sign it and send it as well. And print the envelope. Seriously, print the envelope.

When it comes to postage, is bigger always better?

I was at a seminar about direct mail. The speaker was very good, informative, had great handouts, etc. One of the points emphasized was getting the most bang for your buck. Often times for the same postage rate a much larger mail piece can be sent. So the lesson here is to check how much the postage is going to be and see if for the same money you can send a larger piece. Great news right? Hold on Cowpokes, that’s a great idea but you’re forgetting an important fact. You also need to consider what a larger size mailer means to the cost of printing. That 4 x 6 card could cost twice as much to print at 7 x 9. Consider all aspects of your project before embarking.


markings used on address labels or bulk mail as a substitute for stamps.
Indicias are those postage paid, instead of a stamp squares you often see on envelopes and postacards. Some things to know about indicias:

  1. To use an indicia on mail you must have at least 200 pieces sent standard and at least 500 for first class.
  2. Rate marking–standard, first class
  3. It must bear the words, “U.S. Postage Paid”
  4. City and state where permit is held
  5. The words, “Permit Number” and the permit number
  6. Four or five lines long
  7. Upper right corner

Location, it varies. Yes, upper right corner, but exactly how far from the top and the edge? That’s the eternal question. It isn’t really, the eternal question is the message or the medium? (It’s the message.) Any way, indicia placement. It varies. It varies. It varies. I’ve had printers move it insisting it was wrong, I’ve had printers leave it where it was–guess what? Everything arrived just fine. Me? This is my indicia format: approximately 1”x 1” give or take a tenth. Helvetica, 9.5 type size, .375” from the top and right side. This past Christmas, 750 postcards went out with these specs without a hitch. If in doubt, call your main post office, they will put you in touch with a specialist who will help you make sure your piece of mail meets all postal regulations. There are also standard sizes, mail prices, folds, fasteners, etc. Find things out before you have your piece printed.

Zippity do dah Zip codes

Those five little digits plus four. If you’re mailing something to a client or customer or sending your graphic designer a check for a job well done, those digits are very important. They can tell the post office down to the block where your item is destined (if you use +four). Today you’ll learn two things at two web sites. The first is more interesting than helpful, but oh so cool. The second is very helpful, a look-up for the plus 4 digits for any address. Do not underestimate the power of plus four. I live on an avenue, in Pittsburgh PA there is a road by the same name here as well. We share the same house number with a house on the road though our zip codes differ. Mail gets crossed all the time. Fortunately, as far as we know nothing important has gone astray and I’ve only resent one or two things that looked personal or important. I don’t blame the post office, I love the post office, when one considers the volume of mail they move and yes, for less than a dollar it’s an incredible feat. And this is from a person who had the post office lose 6,000 invitations once, but I digress. Where was I? Right, web site number one, interesting, by Ben Fry. It’s a map, click on it begin to enter your zip and the map lights up by region, then area and finally by post office. Cool.
This one is more helpful, from the US Postal Service I bring you, zip+4 look-up:
I will get more into zip codes and large mailings but today–we’ll take it easy.

Another instance where size matters

Mail. I’m talking about mail, mail. Size of mail pieces. Envelopes, postcards, parcels and the like. What makes a letter a letter and a postcard a postcard? Size.


Postcard: minimum size:             3.5 x 5
maximum size:            4.25 x 6
minimum thickness: .007  (70/80 lbs for postcards)

Self mailer or any letter size envelope (including greeting cards):
minimum size            3.5 x 5
maximum size:          6.125 x 11.5 (6 1/8 x 11.5)
minimum thickness: .009
maximum thickness: .25

Flat size mail (unfolded letter size, lightly padded envelopes):
minimum size            6.125 x 11.5
maximum size:            12 x 15
maximum thickness: .75

Parcels: Irregular shapes, rolls, tubes
maximum length plus width or girth has to be under 108 inches