Mail Services Glossary
Welcome to DIdit DM’s Mail Services Glossary. Here are some terms frequently used in the direct mail process. We have more helpful advice about direct mail in the Direct Mail FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page.
ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) – A format for storing data on disks or magnetic tapes, which can then be, read by different types of computers and software packages. It is the most common way to send data to someone with different software or computer systems. ASCII is a classic character-encoding scheme whose roots extend to the days of telegraph code. Wikipedia has some great info on the history of this influential format.
ASCII Comma Delimited – A specific way of saving database records. It records the data with separators – delimiters. Each field starts with and ends with a quote mark and may have a comma in between. Each line is a new record.
ASCII Fixed Length – A specific way of saving database records. It records the data based on position. Example, Line 1 is the first record, 2 the second, etc. The fields are then based on position, regardless of the number of characters.
Additions (“Adds”) – New names appended to your mailing list.
Address Service Requested – An endorsement line, when printed in a designated area on your mailing piece, authorizes the U.S. Postal Service, to provide a new address, when known of the person that is no longer at that address. Undeliverable and mail that cannot be forwarded can be returned to the sender. The fees charged for these services vary depending on the class of mail as well as complexity of the service requested.
All Per Select – Not limiting the mailing list to one per household or business. For example, let’s look at a law firm. Do you want to reach each individual lawyer or just the firm? “One per” would be the firm only and “all per” would be each lawyer at the firm.
BMC (Bulk Mail Center), since 2009 known as Network Distribution Center – A highly mechanized mail processing plant for the distribution of third class and non–preferential second–class mail in bulk form and fourth–class mail in piece and bulk form. There are twenty–one such facilities spread throughout the country. A complete list of U.S. Network Distribution Centers is on Wikipedia.
BPI – Bytes per inch.
BRC (Business Reply Card) – Many businesses provide their customers and prospects with a postage paid card to make it easier to respond to an offer. When you open a postage paid account at the post office, you pay a yearly fee, a deposit and receive a number. Your cards must include your number and additional special markings. The post office provides free special markings artwork to give to your printer. After you mail and your responses come, in the post office will deduct monies from your account to cover the postage.
BRE ( Business Reply Envelope) – Similar to a BRC, except it is an envelope.
BRM – Business Reply Mail – A domestic service that allows pieces bearing a specific format to be mailed back to the addressee without prepayment of postage by the sender. Postage and fees are collected when the mailing piece is returned to the addressee who originally mailed the piece.
Bag Tag and Tray Tag – A small marker placed on a mail sack or tray for the purpose of identifying both the origin and the destination point of the mail contained within a sack.
Bar Code – A series of vertical bars that represent the zip code information on a mail piece. The barcode facilitates automated processing. If pre–printed on your mail, you can receive lower postal rates.
Bulk Rate renamed Presort Standard – A category of third-class mail used when mailing at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds. When your mail is prepared to bulk mail specifications, the Postal Service discounts your postage rate. Bulk Rate requires a bulk mail permit, which is renewed annually. If you do not have a bulk mail permit, your mail houses’ permit can be used.
Bursting – Mechanically separating continuous forms at the perforation and removing the pin feeds.
Byte – Measurable portion of consecutive binary digits. Example, an eight-bit byte.
CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) – A service offered to mailers, service bureaus, and software vendors that improves the accuracy of delivery point codes, ZIP + 4 codes, 5–digit ZIP Codes, and carrier route information on mail pieces. CASS provides a common platform to measure the quality of address matching software and useful diagnostics to correct software problems.
CRIS (Carrier Route Information System) – All delivery address range information in a standardized format. CRIS contains schemes for city, rural, and highway contract routes and post office box sections. ZIP Code, street name, and street number ranges are listed in this information.
Carrier Route – The addresses on a specific route assigned to an individual mail carrier to deliver. Carrier route includes city routes, rural routes, highway contract routes, post office box sections and general delivery units.
Carrier Route Presort – Presorting mail before it enters the postal system, to a unique letter carrier within a single ZIP Code, bundling and sacking it to USPS specifications in order to receive a discounted postage rate.
Carrier Walk Sequence – The specific route that a letter carrier follows in delivering the mail.
Cheshire Labels – Mailing labels printed on 132–column computer paper with pin feeds on each side. The paper stock is less expensive than pressure sensitive or peel and stick labels. They are machine affixed by a mailing house.
Cheshire Paper – Continuous forms, usually 11” x 14–7/8”, 15–20 pound white bond, on which names and addresses are printed by a computer printer for subsequent mechanical affixing, one at a time, to a mailing piece by a Cheshire machine.
Computer Personalization – The printing of a letter or other promotional piece by the computer, using names, addresses, special phrases or other information based on data contained in one or more computer records. The objective is to give each piece the tailor made look thus increasing the response.
Courtesy Reply Mail – Envelopes or postcards that a mailer provides to its customers to expedite delivery of their responses back to them. The customer affixes the reply postage before mailing.
Computer Service Bureau – A company, which specializes in the sale of data processing services to others, in lieu of the customer having or utilizing an in-house data processing department.
Customer Service Representative (CSR) – USPS employee who establishes and maintains communications with customers to improve service, sell postal products and programs, and present customer viewpoints to postal management.
Conversion – The process of changing records from a different file format to a format, which is identical to that of a specific program.
Data Entry – Usually, the process of transferring written or printed data to processable form by keying it character by character.
DDU (Delivery Destination Unit) – An additional discount available when mail is trucked to the specific zip code that serves the delivery address on the mail.
DMM (Domestic Mail Manual) – The USPS manual that contains the basic standards governing U.S. domestic mail services; descriptions of the mail classes, special services and standards for rate eligibility and mail preparation. Domestic mail is classified by size, weight, content, service and other factors.
DSCF (Destination Sectional Center Facility) – A discount rate available to Periodicals and Standard Mail (A) that is properly prepared and entered by the mailer at the sectional center facility (SCF) that serves the delivery address on the mail (for Standard Mail) or in its service area (for Periodicals).
De-Dupe – The process of taking a database file and eliminating duplicate records. Options include identical record deletion, name and address deletion, multiple addresses deletion, two records at same address, but different names deletion.
Delete – Remove a particular record from a mailing list.
Delivery Point Barcode – A POSTNET barcode consists of 62 bars. There are beginning and ending frame bars and 5 bars each for the nine digits of the ZIP + 4 code, the last 2 digits of the primary street address number or post office box, etc., and a correction digit. The DPBC allows automated sortation of mail to the carrier level in walk sequence.
Direct Impression Printing – The process of printing the mail recipients name or company and address directly on your mail piece. This results in a more professional look rather than affixing a mailing label. It includes inkjetting, laser, dot matrix, daisy wheel and band printers.
Disk – A flat circular plate with a magnetic surface on which data may be magnetically recorded and retrieved. Example, 3 ½” x 5 ¼” floppy zip disk.
Drop Shipment – Typically the movement of your mailing by private transportation from the point of preparation to a postal–facility located closer to the destination of that mailing. Express Mail and Priority Mail drop shipment service can be used instead of a private carrier.
Dump – A printed sample of the contents of a data file, typically a magnetic tape for purposes of review of the data.
Duplicate – A repeated name within a list or between two or more lists. A pair of records between which a sufficient match exists to meet the requirements of any duplicator rule which is in effect.
EBCDIC (Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code) – Pronounced “eb-sa-dick.” This is an eight-bit configuration used to represent up to 256 separate characters, alpha, numeric and special characters. EBCDIC is used as the language of mainframe computers for storage and data processing.
EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) – EDDM is a service introduced by the United States Postal Service (USPS) in 2011 designed to make it easier for businesses to send advertising mail. EDDM campaigns are delivered to every mail recipient on a given carrier’s route; the mail piece maximum for reach zip code in an EDDM campaign is 5,000 (although larger mailings can be executed if the mailer secures a mailing permit).
Edit – Updating a record in a file.
Entry BMC – A bulk mail center (BMC) including its satellite auxiliary service facility (ASF) unless specified otherwise, at which mail is entered by the mailer. Also see BMC.
Entry SCF – The sectional center facility (SCF) at which mail is entered by the mailer or that serves the post office where the mail is entered. An SCF can have responsibility for an area covering either a single or multi 3–digit ZIPCodes. Also see SCF.
Envelope – #9 – An envelope size. This is the standard size for business reply mail. It will fit into a #10 envelope.
Envelope – #10 – An envelope size. This is the standard size for business or commercial envelopes. It allows several sheets of 8 ½” x 11” paper to be folded in thirds and fit into this envelope.
File – A collection of records on a single storage device.
File Maintenance – The activity of keeping a file up to date by adding, changing or deleting data. Synonymous with List Maintenance.
Format/Layout – A written, field-by-field description of the data contained in a record, typically describing each field as to its length, beginning and ending positions, name editing characteristics and data format.
Four Up – Refers to the number of mailing labels printed across the page. There would be four labels across the page printed on continuous form Cheshire stock.
Galley Listing – A computer printout of data on paper. Two-line and six-line galley formats are standard. The two-line format lists names and address, plus minimal other data. The six-line format is much more comprehensive.
Import – The method for bringing data into your program. Software packages record their data using their own method. To allow outside data to be imported into your software package, they support a number of different file formats. ASCII is the most common.
Indicia – A payment method for postage. It is pre–printed permit on your mail piece saving the process of affixing a “Live Stamp” or “Metering” the mail. The text contains Bulk Rate Postage Paid or First Class Pre–Sorted, the city and permit number to be billed.
Ink Jet Printing – The process of printing the mail recipients name or company and address directly on your mail piece. It is done specifically with an ink jet printer.
Insert – An item which is to be inserted into another. Can include a small single sheet being inserted into a flyer, or sheets inserted into an envelope.
Input – (1) Information or data which must be read by a peripheral device and transferred from some external storage medium, such as cards or magnetic tape, into internal storage of the computer for processing and, typically, subsequent output to an external storage medium. (2) The device used for transferring external data from an external storage medium into main storage (i.e., card reader, tape drive) (3) The process of transferring data from external to internal storage.
Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)
The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) system is an advanced version of the U.S. Postal Services’s barcode technlogy. Formerly know as the “4-State Customer Barcode,” IMB is used to sort and track direct mail letters and flats. IMB combines the functions and capabilities of other USPS barcode systems, including POSTNET and Planet Codes, into a single unique barcode.
Key Only – Data entry without verification. This is a character-by-character verification performed after the input has been keyed. A second operator re-keys the data to be verified and the machine compares the second keying to the first. Discrepancies cause the machine to stop until the operator chooses which version of a keyed character is the correct one.
LTRS (Letters) – A code used on mail container labels that identify the contents as letter–size mail (mail including cards that does not exceed any dimension for letter–size mail).
List Broker – A business, which arranges (on behalf of a mailer) the rental of mailing lists, owned by others.
List Maintenance – Any manual, mechanical or electronic system for keeping name-and-address records up-to-date.
Live Stamp – A payment method for postage. It is an actual stamp affixed to your mail piece. It can be a first class stamp or “Bulk Rate” stamps. Other methods of payment include “Indicia” and “Metered.”
M – One thousand (mille).
MACH (machinable) – A code used on mail container labels that identifies the contents as machinable parcels (mail that does not exceed any dimension for mail that can be processed on mechanized parcel sorting equipment).
Mag Tape – Magnetic tape or nine track tape. A method of storing data used primarily in mainframes. Requires a mag tape drive. They hold a vast amount of data per tape and come in a variety of reel sizes, densities, BPI and formats.
Mail Merge – The process of merging your mailing list with your mail piece. Instead of the generic Dear Friend letters with an address label, it is personalized on the letter. Can also include coupons, check and other direct mail pieces.
Mail Piece – This would be the entire package of literature sent to your mailing list. For example, if you are mailing a letter, business card, brochure and a rely card that are inserted into an envelope, all the pieces combined are called your mail piece.
Mailing List – Data which is purchased to market your products or services to others. It can include residents or businesses. The data can then be provided on labels, disks, mag tape, 3 x 5 cards, etc.
Match Code – A programmatic extract from the name and address information that is the identifier used to access a specific record on a file. The match code is also an integral part of match data used in identifying duplicates.
Merge – The process of reading two or more files that are in the same processing sequence and file format. Or writing all of the records from those files to a single file in the same sequence.
Merge/Purge – The process of identifying and eliminating duplicates among two or more mailing lists. Or the merging of two or more files in the matching process to produce one file free of duplicates.
Metered – A payment method for postage. It is run through a postage meter with an amount, city and state mailed from and other endorsements (bulk rate, non–profit organization, carrier route, pre–sort, etc.). Other methods of payment include “Live Stamp” and “Indicia”.
Metered Mail – Any class of mail with postage printed by an USPS–approved meter. The same privileges and conditions apply as to material with stamps.
Multibuyer – A name that appears on more than one mail file.
NCOA (National Change of Address) – An address correction service that the USPS provides to mailers through USPS licensees. The licensees match mailing lists submitted to them on tape or disk against change–of–address information for the entire country form all Computerized Forwarding System units. NCOA can correct an address before it is used on a piece of mail.
Nth Name Selection – A fractional unit that is repeated in sampling a mailing list. For example an “every tenth” sample, you would select the 1st, 11th, 21st, 31st, etc., records only.
OCR – (Optical Character Recognition) – A process by which data printed on paper may be transferred to processible media without keying. The process requires that characters be printed I a special type style or font typically either OCR-A or OCR-B, which are the styles expected by computer peripheral devices called optical scanners which read the characters on the paper through use of light sensitive devices and through a process of reflection and non-reflection, detect the character and transfer it to processible media for subsequent processing.
Occupant List – Mailing lists that do not have the recipient’s name or company name on the label, only the address. It is less expensive than a named list.
One Per – Used primarily with business data. Limiting the mailing list to one per office. An example would be a law firm. Do you want to market each individual lawyer, or just the firm? “One per” would be the firm only and “All per” would be each lawyer.
One Up – Refers to the number of mailing labels printed across the page. There would be one label across the page printed on continuous form “stock”. This may be required for some machines capable of removing and affixing the label to your mail piece.
One–time Usage of a Mailing List – An intrinsic part of the normal list rental, or list exchange agreement, in which it is understood that the mailer will not mail to the names on the list more than one time without specific prior approval of the list owner.
PAVE (Presort Accuracy Validation and Evaluation) – A voluntary program in which the USPS provides testing for certain categories of presort software and hardware products to determine their accuracy in sorting address information according to Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) standards and producing standardized supporting documentation.
PRC (Postal Rate Commission) – An independent federal agency created by the Postal Reorganization Act that makes recommendations concerning USPS requests for changes in postal rates and mail classifications. The five Commissioners are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate.
Per M – Per 1,000. Most mailing lists, mailing services and printing services are quoted per 1,000 pieces. The rate is pro–rated based on quantity. Example – a rate of $15.00/M (per thousand) for 2,500 pieces is $15.00 x 2.5 = $37.50.
Periodicals – A class of mail (formerly called second–class) consisting of magazines, newspapers, or other publications formed of printed sheets that are issued at least four times a year at regular, specified intervals (frequency) from a “known office of publication”. Periodicals usually must have a list of subscribers and/ or requesters, as appropriate.
Permit – An authorization; typically a mailing permit or an authorization to mail without postage affixed, using an indicia containing specific information.
Piggy Back Labels – Mailing labels that can be affixed to your mail piece and allows the recipient to peel off the label and place it on something else usually a piece mailed back to you. Example – the IRS booklet has a label on it, you peel it off and place it on your return.
Postage Statement – Documentation provided by a mailer to the USPS that reports the volume of mail being presented and the postage payable or affixed, and certifies that the mail meets the applicable eligibility standards for the rate claimed.
Precancelled Stamps – Stamps canceled by printing across the face before they are sold to large mailers. Avoids using the canceling machine at the time of mailing.
Presort – The process by which a mailer prepared mail so that it is sorted to at least the finest extent required by the standards for the rate claimed. Generally, presort is performed sequentially, from the lowest (finest) level to the highest level, to those destinations specified by standard and is completed at each level before the next level is prepared. Not all presort levels are applicable in all situations.
Pressure Sensitive Labels / PS Labels /Peel & Stick Labels / Avery Labels – Mailing labels that can be peeled off and hand affixed. The backing is a wax–type paper and the label is gummy on the back. The “stock” is more expensive than Cheshire labels.
Print Image – The form of data representation from which logical print lines can be displayed on a printer with no intermediate format manipulation necessary.
Printout – A hard copy display of information or data.
Purge – The process of eliminating duplicates and/ or unwanted names and addresses from one or more lists.
QR Codes – QR (“Quick Response”) codes are matrix (two-dimensional) barcodes often applied to direct mail pieces to track a recipient’s actions after receiving the mail piece. Recipients typically use their mobile phones to scan a QR code, which can prompt a subsequent action, such as a referral to a personalized URL, sending an e-mail, or other action capable of being tracked by the marketer.
Reformat – The process of reading data from one physical storage medium and writing it on another. During the process certain fields are relocated from a positional standpoint and/ or dropping fields or reorganizing the data within fields. Often, other steps are incorporated in the reformat, such as insertion of data from a second input file, or data generated by the reformat program itself, such as a sweepstakes number.
Resident List – A mailing list to individuals at their home address, not businesses. It can include homes, condominiums, apartments, trailers and mobile homes.
SCF (Sectional Center Facility) – A postal facility that serves as the distribution and processing center for post offices. Represents the first three digits of the zip code. Example –SCF 337 would represent all zip codes from 33701–33799.
SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) – A numbering system first started by the U.S. Government which categorizes what businesses do. It allows you to select a business mailing list specific to your types of customers. A listing of these SIC codes are available for downloading.
Seed Name – A unique name inserted in a mailing list for the purpose of tracking list usage.
Self–Mailer – A direct mail piece mailed without an envelope or special binding.
Sequence – An ordering of records based on one or more fields contained in the File. Examples include zip code sequence, alpha by surname within zip code.
Service Bureau – A data processing company, which uses computer hardware and software to perform application functions for others.
Sort – A processing function which arranges a file in a specified sequence.
Sort, Tie and Bag or Tray – Refers to the process of submitting mail to the Postal Service for postage rate discounts. All mail must be bagged, trayed, or on pallets, tagged properly and prepared to USPS rules. Usually refers to bulk mail, but can include all classes of mail which includes discounts.
Source Code – Unique alphabetical and/ or numerical identifier, which signifies the specific origin.
Standard Mail – A class of mail consisting of mailable matter that is not mailed as First–Class Mail or entered as Periodicals. Standard Mail includes matter formerly classified as third class and as fourth–class mail. Though combined in Standard Mail, matter from each former class remains subject to separate and specific classifications, eligibility, and preparation standards. Matter formerly classified as third class mail is referred to as Standard Mail (A); matter formerly classified as fourth–class mail is referred to as Standard Mail (B). The unmodified term Standard Mail applies to both former third–class mail and former fourth–class mail. Third Class Mail, Bulk Mail or Standard Mail mailed through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as bulk mail. When your mail is prepared to bulk mail specifications, the Post Service discounts your postage rate.
Tape Dump – A small listing of the info contained on a tape that displays the data in character and/ or hexadecimal format.
Throughput – A quantitative description of the amount of final output processed in a given amount of time.
Tray Tag – A small tag placed on a mail tray for the purpose of identifying both the origin and the destination point of the mail contained within a tray.
Truncate – To drop characters at the end of a data field because the info keyed is too long to fit in the record positions in which it must be stored.
Turnaround Time – Elapsed time between submission of a job to a processing center and the delivery of a specified output.
Unlimited Use – When data is purchased on disk or “Mag Tape”, it gives you the right to use the data an unlimited number of times within one year. The data should then be re–purchased which will include updated records.
Upgradable Mail – First–Class Mail and Standard Mail that the USPS can process on a multiline optical character reader (MLOCR) to apply a barcode. Upgradable mail is letter–size, automation–compatible pieces, with machine–printed non script addresses, an OCR read area and a barcode clear zone meeting reflectance requirements, and paper that can accept ink. Preparation of upgradable pieces is usually simpler than the preparation of non–upgradable mail.
Update – To post current information or transactions to a master file to reflect the current status of each record on the list. Also refers to the addition of new records.
Variable Length Record – A record with an unfixed number of fields and/ or characters. Normally a maximum size of the record is established including a maximum length for each field, regardless of whether data exists. However in variable length records individual fields, subject to established maximums, are only as long as they need to be in a given circumstance and their ending/ beginning is identified by designated special characters or other field separators.
WKG (Working) – A marking used on mail container labels that identifies the contents as mail requiring sorting and distribution.
Walk Sequence (WS) – This code allows your mail piece to go one step further than ZIP + 4 and Carrier Route. The mail is in the exact order that the mail carrier walks. No sorting is needed by the Postal Service. This results in the lowest postage under “Bulk Mail”.
Z Fold / Accordion Fold – A method of folding paper in thirds. Usually done to 8 ½” x 11” paper. This type of fold does not run on most automated inserting machine a letter fold is always a better bet.
Zip Code – Established in 1963, the system of 5–digit codes that identifies the individual post office or metropolitan area delivery station associated with an address. ZIP + 4 is an enhanced code consisting of the 5–digit ZIP Code and four additional digits that identify a specific range of delivery addresses. also and integral part of match data used in identifying duplicates.
Zip Code Sequence – Arranging names and addresses in a list according to a numeric progression of the zip code in each record. This form of list formatting is mandatory for mailing at standard third class mail rates.
Zip Tally – A report which shows how many mail pieces there are by zip code. Depending on the mailing discounts required, it may include the number per carrier route, zip code, SCF and state.