How to Structure Your Mailing List
The proper structure and maintenance of your mailing list is extremely important in order to make it "presort ready." In addition to saving you time and money, your list will be easy to process and versatile enough to implement many combinations of Variable Data Printing (VDP) techniques. Here are some guidelines which should help you improve your data quality:
Break names into all possible component parts: prefix.salutation (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Rev., Hon., etc.); first name; middle initial; last name; suffix (Sr., Jr., III, MD, PhD, etc.). This allow for maximum flexibility when creating VDP letters, since the first name can be used independently of the last name. It also allows for accurate duplicate detection, since both first and last name can be used to determine whether two records match.
Have enough fields for all possible address elements. If needed, include elements such as "title", "department", "company name", address 1", "address 2" (for address elements such as a Mail Stop).
Keep city, state and ZIP code in seperate fields.
If foreign addresses are part of the mail list, include a "country" field and a field for the foreign postal code information.
Set field lengths to the appropriate size for the data. The address clock on most mail pieces will accommodate only a certain number of characters, so it doesn't make sense to allow hundreds of characters in a single field.
Data Entry Guidelines
- Adopt data entry standards. Decide whether data will be entered in all capital letters or initial capitals. Decide how to abbreviate address elements like "apartment", "suite", and "number". We recommend using the USPS standard abbreviations (Apt, Ste, #).
- Do not use punctuation. USPS addressing standards strip punctuation out of the address anyway, so don't saste keystrokes typing it.
- Do not use quotation marks (either single ' or double ") around any address element (such as "E" Street or Apt "B"). Data base programs (such as mail list management software) interpret quotes as the end of a field or a record. This means that an address will be split into two different records, each containing olny part of the necessary information.
- Be consistent. In each field, enter only the information for that field. When needed, add another field rather than entering different information. For example, rather than entering a company name in the last name field, create a new field called "company." Do not randomly place information.
- Use mixed case. Although typing in all capital letters is faster for data entry, it will prevent an attractive presentation for VDP. Dear PATRICK is not the way we expect to see the salutation of a letter. And while mail list management software can change to mixed case, it is not 100% perfect. For example, ABC COMPANY will convert to Abc Company when automatically cased.