Direct Mail Formatting: 5 Issues To Know About

While direct mail is a marketing powerhouse for businesses and non-profit organizations, formatting issues could put a big damper on your campaign. The US Postal Service imposes strict regulations on direct mail campaigns so it is important that marketers stay abreast of these potential concerns well before their campaigns are printed. Following are five issues related to direct mail formatting that you should know. 

Direct Mail Formatting Issues You Need to Know About 

Thin Stock Could Raise Your Postage Rates 

The USPS requires a certain thickness of stock for direct mail pieces. The minimums and maximums for thickness will vary depending on whether you’re sending letters or postcards. For example, a postcard should be between .007 and .016 in thickness. It’s important to know exactly what thickness specifications are necessary for the type of direct mail you are sending. We recommend discussing your direct mail campaign with our experts or with the USPS before selecting your stock.  

The Placement of Your Mail Panel 

Where an address is placed on direct mail varies on the type of pieces you’re sending. Booklets, postcards, and letters all have different requirements. Our team recommends e-mailing PDFs of your campaigns to your mail service provider to ensure that your mail panel is placed appropriately.  

Aspect Ratio 

The USPS imposes requirements on the aspect ratio of postcards, letters, and booklets. Typically, the aspect ratio should be 1.3 and 2.5. Aspect ratios beyond these parameters will cost extra.  


Size requirements, like other elements of direct mail, vary depending on the type of mail being sent out. Adhering to these requirements can be tricky so it is best to consult with your mail provider before finalizing your campaigns.  

Common size requirements include: 

  • Self-Mailers: 3.5 x 5.0 to 6.125 x 11.5 
  • Booklets (mailers with binding): 3.5 x5 to 6.0 x 10.5 
  • Postcards: 3.5 x 5.0 to 6.0 x 9.0 


As most know, the heavier a piece of mail is the more it will cost in postage. Presorted mail allows for more weight, up to 3.5 ounces, before extra postages rates are imposed while regular first class mail imposes extra fees for every additional ounce of weight.  

Considerations for Non-Profit Organizations’ Direct Mail Formatting 

Direct mail is a mainstay of non-profit marketing because of its high ROI and ability to resonate across many demographics. That being said, there are special considerations with direct mail formatting that non-profits should know about. One of the most common formatting issues associated with non-profit direct mail is the verbiage used related to raffles.  

If raffle tickets do not expressly state that donations are not required to enter, the USPS will consider raffle tickets a “lottery”, which is forbidden by mail. If you are mailing raffle tickets, ensure that you make clear in your copy that donations are not required to enter. This can be done by simply adding verbiage like “suggested donation” for the cost of each ticket or provide a box stating “I do not wish to make a donation at this time with my entry” that the recipient can check.  

Direct mail formatting can be cumbersome—especially to businesses and organizations new to mail campaigns. Our friendly experts at Pel Hughes are here to help. We provide a number of services to help your direct mail campaigns resonate with your community including graphic design, campaign automation, and database services. We pair advanced technology with old fashioned client service. Give us a call at (504) 486-8646 to discuss your marketing needs.