The next class up from First Class postcards are First Class letters. Starting at 50¢, letters are one of the most common forms of mail used to date. I get the feeling that they’ve stopped teaching people how to write and address a letter in elementary school anymore though, because I have seen some really unfortunate letters before (to learn how to properly address a letter visit my Addressing Tips & Helps page).


What comprises a good letter?

1. A good letter weighs no more than 3 ounces

If your letter weighs more than 3 ounces, then you don’t have a letter, you have a flat (see First Class Flats).

As a simple reference:

1 oz = 5 pieces of paper and an envelope
2 oz = 10 pieces of paper and an envelope
3 oz = 15 pieces of paper and an envelope

Any letter with over 15 pieces of paper should NOT be placed in a #10 letter sized envelope

2. A good letter will have both a “to” and “from” address

It is important to have both because if the postal service is unable to deliver the letter to the recipient (for a myriad of reason) they need to know where to send it back to. If they don’t have a return address, or have insufficient information to facilitate a return, they will “kill” the letter (see FAQ’s for “Dead Letters”).

3. A good letter will be properly oriented 

Sorting scanners are programmed to process letter sized envelopes in landscape format and do not function well in portrait format. Regardless of how you address your envelope, they will probably be scanned like they are in landscape format.Untitled

4. A good letter will have a correctly formatted address

This axiom can be both flexible and restrictive. Much depends upon what you are sending and how you are sending it. For more information on address formatting, check out my blog: A good address is a happy address!

5. A good letter will not have anything solid inside

No paper clips, binder clips, coins, credit cards, small rocks, or apples. Anything solid in the letter can cause an additional handling charge for the recipient to pay before they are able to pick it up, or it may be sent back to you with a note requiring more postage. Sometimes these extra inserts slip through, however, but because of the speed at which they are being sorted (again, see my How the Post Office Works blog) coins often pop out of the paper, credit cards can be bent or broken, and paper and binder clips have caused many a jam over time. But they got better 🙂

6. A good letter will not be stuffed too full

Departments often send me letter sized envelopes that are so stuffed full of papers that they become too thick for the to process through my machine. Generally, if your envelope contains more than 10 pieces of paper, You will not save any money by folding it into a smaller envelope; you might as well use a larger envelope (see First Class Flats) because it will cost the same, and your documents will be delivered in better condition. 

Designing a new envelope? Visit my Mail Piece Design page for downloadable cheats!