Bloody Well Write

January 28, 2009

RIP, Zip

Filed under: grammar,post office,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 9:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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!



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