Bloody Well Write

April 10, 2009

Going postal

Filed under: grammar,Jajo,post office,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 3:36 pm
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Art imitates life. Or is it the other way around? Or maybe both, depending on the day? Today’s entry developed directly from one of my work experiences yesterday.

A few of us went to the main post office here in town to learn a bit about mailpiece design. (Yes, the one-word mailpiece is, according to the post office, a legitimate term, and since I’m discussing postal issues, I’m deferring to its spelling preference.) We even scored a tour. The bummer was that we were there during off-peak hours, so all the belts were stationary, no whistles were toot-tooting and no one was shouting orders to and fro. In fact, there were very few folks around. But there were some chicks (dyed bright green and orange, no less) in cartons, chirping their little lungs out, waiting to be shipped out in time for Easter.

But I digress.

We learned about acceptable sizes for letters and postcards — including the “official” tapping-an-envelope-through-a-slot-to-see-if-its-size-is-legit method — and whether or not we should design an envelope out of metallic paper (not recommended); but what really caught my attention was the shtick about addressing a letter or parcel, particularly the punctuation (or lack thereof) within an address.

Read the entire article at Bloody Well Write’s new location.

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January 28, 2009

RIP, Zip

Filed under: grammar,post office,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 9:46 pm
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Postal addresses: They help the mail get to us faster, in a more orderly manner. They make life for the conscientious mailer something nearing hell when they’ve gone missing. And they are the final touch on holiday cards and love letters (do folks still send love letters via snail mail or just text syllable-missing conglomerations on their iPhones?) before the stamp gets crammed in the corner. They seem vital to getting your correspondence where you want it to go. So what are those last five digits at the end of an address, anyway?

The Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) code is the system of postal codes used by the United States Postal Service (USPS). In the early ’80s, four more digits were supposed to be tacked on the end of the ZIP code, determining a more specific location, but those little buggers didn’t become mandatory. Today, postal technology scans the address and determines — with Big-Brother-like precision — the destination’s exact location, so the extra four digits are more of a nicety than anything pressing.

ZIP codes are determined according to geographic location. Each digit represents a location:
First — a certain group of U.S. states (e.g., my work ZIP code starts with 6, so the post office knows that I’m either in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri or Illinois)
Second and third — a region in that group (could be a large city)
Fourth and fifth — a group of delivery addresses within the region

U.S. ZIP code zones

U.S. ZIP code zones

The East Coast has the lowest numbers (e.g., Maine, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have ZIP codes that start with 0). The ZIP codes “grow” across the country: Florida’s ZIP code starts with 3, South Dakota’s with 5, New Mexico’s with 8 and Hawaii’s with 9 (Mahalo nui loa).

Lots of interesting info, huh? Well, here’s the real reason I decided to broach this subject: I see “Zip” everywhere. Folks, it’s ZIP. It’s an acronym, so all three letters need to be uppercase letters. No exceptions when you’re referring to the postal code system — zip, zero, zilch.

One last thing, concerning formatting: Please allow only one space before the ZIP code (e.g., Lawrence, KS 66044). Two spaces is, frankly, a weird typing habit and a waste of space. Waste not, want not, right? Right.

Newman would be so proud.

Happy trails!

SAK

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