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Mail Tips

We can tell you from experience that if you know the correct way to prepare your mail piece and follow the rules, you will:

  1. Save money on both preparation and postage.
  2. Avoid problems, such as additional postage or undelivered mail.

The design, size, and even how a piece folds can substantially affect your mailing costs. Talk to us at the planning stage to avoid problems and save time and money. It may even surprise you to know that exactly how your return address and/or “mailer endorsement” is set up on a mailing piece can affect your total postage costs for a given mailing.

Automated Postal Processing

Making your mail pieces automation-compatible is important for your budget. If your mail is not compatible with U.S. Postal Service automation standards, it must be processed manually and will cost far more than correctly prepared automated bulk mail.

Your automation-compatible mail piece should:

  1. Meet the size and weight standards defined below
  2. Be made of good quality white or light-colored paper
  3. Contain no sharp or bulky items
  4. Be readable by automated equipment

Size and Weight

By keeping your mail piece less than 6 1⁄8″ × 11½″ and under ¼″ thick can save you up to 200% in postage.

Letter-size automated bulk mail is the most economical method of mailing, and includes postcard and certain letters. Pieces larger than the maximum specs for letter-size mail are designated as flats. Flats are machinable but are more expensive to mail. Below are the size and thickness specifications for each type. Sizes are on the first line and thicknesses on the second. All measurements are in inches.

Size and Weight Chart
  Cards Letters Flats
Minimum size 3.5 × 5 3.5 × 5 6.125 × 11.5
Minimum thickness .007 .007 .25
Maximum size 4.26 × 6 6.12 × 11.5 12 × 15
Maximun thickness .0095 .25 .75

Know Your Ratio

Letter-size pieces must have an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of no less than 1.3 or no more than 2.5 to be machinable. (The length is the measurement of the side that is parallel to the address lines.) Anything that does not fall within the above specifications is non-machinable and must be hand processed at a greater expense to you.

First Class Mail, Bulk Mail, and Non-Profit Bulk Mail

You can save money if you get the right advice and take the right approach. First class is the fastest and most expensive, and is used primarily for individual or small mailings. Most large mailings (200 or more identical pieces) are sent bulk rate because it is significantly less expensive. But, not all bulk rates are the same and the difference is significant in large mailings. For instance, the difference between lettersize automation/machineable Nonprofit Standard Bulk Mail (lowest cost) and Regular Standard Bulk Mail (next lowest cost) is .101 cents per piece. For a 5,000-piece mailing that’s $505.00 difference! To qualify for the lower rate the piece must qualify to use the non-profit UT permit.

Who Is Designing Your Mailpiece?

If Mail Services is designing your mailpiece, the preceding specifications will be observed. If the piece is being designed by someone not familiar with automated mailing requirements, it would be prudent to have the designer talk with Printing Services at the start. Having a piece printed and then finding out it doesn’t qualify for automated processing can be an expensive experience. Folded mailpieces, for instance, require the address and the fold to have a specific relationship for automation. Folded pieces also usually require tabs, but how many tabs and where they are placed are important, too. There are additional issues that can affect mail rates, so we encourage you to talk to us before you begin.


For automated processing, the address, return address and postage area must fall within designated areas. See the diagram below.The specifications below apply to all letter-size mail, from 3.5″ × 5″ postcard to the maximum letter-size limit of 6 1⁄8" × 11½".

layout showing designated areas suited for automated processing

For More Information

The above information covers some of the major issues important in the process of making your mail automation-compatible to save you money. It doesn’t cover it all. Self-mailers and business reply cards have equally detailed requirements. Even how you set up your mailing label database can impact your mailing cost. For further information please contact us.