mailingsidewllI just hate receiving mail with those ugly little white stickers plastered onto it, don’t you? My mailing house contact calls them lim-lim stickers.

The USPO applies them because something printed at the bottom of the postcard is interfering with the clear zone, a  4-3/4″ wide by 5/8″area at the bottom right of the mailing panel/side.

See the offending text close to the bottom on the piece below?


Barcodes speed mail delivery

Automation-compatible mail gets the most efficient handling—and often, postage discounts.

The postnet barcode that represents the zip code is one key to that automation, which is the key to speedier mail delivery. This is true for both First-Class Mail and Standard Mail Letters.

If an envelope doesn’t already have a barcode, the OCR (optical character recognition) reader reads the zip code numbers in the address and ink jets a postnet barcode onto it. But if  the reader encounters other text where it plans to print that barcode—especially characters that could be interpreted as numbers—it applies the dreaded lim-lim sticker before printing the barcode. Not only that, sometimes it sticks a lim-lim on both sides of the piece!



It’s such a shame to see one of these stickers on a handsome mailing like this one, or on an otherwise-classy black or translucent envelope. It pretty much cancels out the any coolness factor, don’t you agree?

If you plan to use a special envelope, be sure to think through the whole barcode and sticker question.


You can take several steps to lessen the chance of postcard uglification via lim-lim sticker:

  • Observe the clear zone rules by leaving an area 5/8″ tall clear of any type or image on the mailing side of your card. 5/8″ is the rule, but 3/4″ is safer, in my experience.
  • Place the address and return address where they are supposed to appear on the mailing panel. The OCR-read-area should include the address information only. No snipes, headlines or patterns that could be misread as numbers should fall inside this zone:
  • clearzones

  • Include the barcode as part of the address. If you’re using addressing software, many packages are capable of generating postnet barcodes. The barcode can be laser or ink-jet printed directly onto an envelope or card, or applied to a mailing label:
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  • Avoid mailing disasters altogether by using a mail house. They keep up with all of the postal rules and will advise you—from the design all the way to the labeling and mailing—all for just a few cents for each letter or postcard.

One big fat caveat

Mailing regulations change often. If you do a Google search, you’ll find mailing information from a variety of sources, but it may or may not be current and accurate.

If you prefer to do it yourself, contact the USPO to get connected with the nearest mailing requirements office and follow their recommendations. They also sponsor periodic crash courses on mailing regs.

Good luck and happy mailing!