It's true that machines can't actually read. But thanks to the optical character recognition technology used by Canada Post's automated processing equipment, they can come awfully close.
When a mail item is machine-readable, our sorting machines can find and read its address, sorting it accordingly. To ensure optimal processing, machineable mailings must pass a read rate assessment test of 95% for Standard or Short and Long and 85% for Oversize mail. This means that our machines should be able to read at least 95% of the addresses in a Standard or Short and Long mailing and at least 85% of the addresses in an Oversize mailing. When you prepare mail that meets our minimum read-rate, we pass the savings on to you through our most attractive price points.
So what makes mail readable? Here are some of the key determinants:
- Start with proper address placement. Our machines are designed to look for a destination address in a specific area (we call this the Address Zone). And placing the return address in the upper left hand corner or in the middle of the flap on the back of the envelope helps prevent our machines from mistaking the return address for the destination address.
If you're using a window envelope, make sure the address window is made of a transparent material, and that it is located in the Address Zone.
- Choosing the right font for your address is also important. Certain fonts-like Courier, Courier New and Letter Gothic-are easier for our machines to read because they're clear and well-defined. We require that you print addresses in dark ink and upper case type. For more information about acceptable fonts, check out the "Font and Colours" tab in the Machineable Mail Advisor.
- On each mail item, certain areas are to be kept clear of text, graphics and dark colours in order to avoid confusing our equipment. We call these areas Quiet Zones. Since our machines search and read the address information from the right edge, do not place graphics or text to the right and below the address on Standard or Short and Long envelopes.
Quiet Zones are also reserved for machine barcoding on the front and back of Standard or Short and Long mail and the front of Oversize mail. In order to prevent barcodes from smearing, we ask that you avoid using glossy coatings in these areas when preparing Standard or Short and Long items.
Although Quiet Zones must remain clear of graphics and text, light colours are acceptable. Outside these reserved areas, the sky's the limit-there's lots of room for you to develop bright, colourful, creative designs.
Last but not least, do not forget about paper quality. Features like brightness, opacity, and the amount of light reflected are important, since they can strongly influence readability.
The Machineable Mail Advisor covers our readability standards in much greater detail. It even features design templates that show you exactly where reserved areas like Address and Quiet Zones are located. You'll also find links to the Machineable Postal Standards guide where our specifications appear in detail.