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Direct Mail Jargon Explained


Whether you’re producing your first direct mail campaign or you’ve done this before, you might not understand all the jargon associated with the direct mail industry. With our Jargon Buster you can have direct mail jargon explained in straightforward terms. This is where you’ll find explanations to many of the weird and wonderful abbreviations and language used in the direct mail business.


Acronym for "Get Attention, Arouse Interest, Stimulate Desire, Ask for Action." Should be used as a guide to help write the copy for a direct mail campaign.

Action devices

Techniques used in mailing piece to initiate a response by the recipient.


Term can be used to describe both members whose subscriptions have yet to expire and listed customers that have made purchases within the last year.


An advert that is designed in such as way that it gives the impression of being an editorial.


Marketing activity directed from one business to another rather than being directed at consumers.

Bangtail Envelope

An envelope with an additional flap which recipients can tear off to use as the response device.

Batch processing

Describes the processing of items accumulated over a period as opposed to processing one day to day basis.


Used to describe a process that has not been mechanised and is performed my hand.

Bingo card

The name for a reply card placed inside a publication. These are used by readers to request information from companies who advertise in editorial columns.


Business reply card.


Business reply service - where a pre-addressed envelope is pre-printed with a business address and is used for recipients to respond to a mailing.


Business reply post.

Buckle folding

A particular type of fold on a high speed folding machine.

CBC (Customer Bar Codes)

An option within Royal Mail's Bulk Mail service, where the application of a unique customer bardcode on the mailing envelope which can then be sorted automatically by Royal Mail's sorting machinery to obtain greater accuracy and postal savings.


With regard to list management, cleansing refers to the process of removing or altering a name and/or address inside a list to update or correct it.


The CMYK colour model is used in colour printing and often to describe the printing process as well. Ink is typically applied in the order of the abbreviation itself, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black).


To put together a number of items, sometimes to collate items in a specific order.

Cost per enquiry (CPE)

Cost per inquiry is the figure derived from dividing the total cost of a mailing by the number of resulting enquiries.

Cost per order (CPO)

Figure derived by dividing the total cost of a campaign by the number of orders received.

Cross folding

Using the folder to make two or more folds in one operation - for example A4 to A5 then A5 to DL.

CSV file

Comma Separated Values a method of separating fields within records in a mailing list, using commas to tell the programme where fields start and finish.

Data capture

Also known as data entry is the process of keying in data into an electronic format for use in a direct marketing campaign.

Data processing

Covers the actions of the IT department on data files such as sortation, file formatting and generating salutations etc.

Data Protection Act

1984 Act of Parliament guaranteeing certain rights of individuals and the control and use of personal data held on a company computer.

Data record

An individual entry containing the name and address and other information of the person named within the record - a group of records make a data file.


A collection of data. A direct mail database is used as a way of contacting a group of prospects, customers or subscribers.


A process that ensures a name and address is only mailed to once no matter how many times it appears in a list or how many lists it appears on. De-duplication is also known as "Dupe Elimination" and "Merge/Purge".

Direct mail

A personally addressed mailing piece that promotes a company's products or services.

Direct marketing

A marketing system that seeks to produce an enquiry or an order. Direct marketing can use any medium but requires the use of a database.

DownStream Access Provider (DSA)

These are alternative mail providers to the Royal Mail. For some mailings of certain sizes and weights, savings and enhanced delivery services can be made by using a DSA provider.

Dupe or duplicate

The repetition of identical records in a database.


In laser printing, printed on both sides of the page.

Electoral role

Before use, names & addresses in a database can be validated against the Electoral Role which is the largest name & address databank in the UK with around 46 million adults.

Field / data field

Data in computer records are held in fields. Each field holds a separate item of information. Having data that is formatted correctly in fields makes data processing easier.

File formatting

Preparing a data file for data processing.


Royal Mail service where a reply device includes postage charged to the original sender.

Gusseted envelope

Where the sides of the envelope can extend to increase it's capacity.

Inkjet printing

An inkjet printer works by squirting a jet of very fine droplets of ink onto the paper in a pattern determined by a computer. Can be in colour as well as black/white.

Laser printing

A high quality method of printing from computer to paper. Laser printed documents do not look as they have been massed produced. Laser printing can be in colour as well as black/white.

List manager

A company which holds a client's database and updates, adds and deletes records as required. They also output selections from the database according to instructions received from the client.

Machine enclosing

The process of inserting materials into envelopes by machine rather than by hand.

Mail Merge

The process of merging a mailer template document with a list of contact details so that each document is personalised.

Mailing Preference Service (MPS)

A service that registers the names and addresses of people who don't want to receive unsolicited mail. Whenever a mailing list is used, it is cross referenced against the MPS so those people can be removed

Mail Sorting

Undertaking some of the work involved in sorting & processing mail normally performed by Royal Mail in order to achieve postage discounts.


The combining of more than one customer files and comparing them to eliminate duplicates. Can sometimes imply that MPS services are to be used.

National Change of Address (NCOA)

A suppression file which records details of home owners who have registered a change of address with Royal Mail and requested re-direction of their mail.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

An option within Royal Mail's Bulk Mail service, that uses special OCR fonts on the mailing envelope which can then be sorted automatically by Royal Mail's sorting machinery to obtain greater accuracy and postal savings.

One piece mailer

A type of mailing which is formed of a single sheet of paper. Specialised machinery prints, personalises, folds and forms into a envelope in one continuous process

PAF (Postcode Address File)

A data file containing the exact address of every property to which post can be delivered. The program that uses this file can correct addresses as well as allocating postcodes

Polybag / Polywrap

A see-through plastic bag used for mailing instead of an envelope. Often used for brochure and magazine mailings using machinery to insert and seal.


The act of inserting items into a polybag, normally done using specialised machinery.

Post Town

The post town in an address is the town where Royal Mail has the nearest distribution depot from which mail is delivered by the postman.

Postage Optimisation

The process involved in selecting the optimum type of postal service that will attract postage savings. Dependent on the mailing volume, shape, size, weight and the class of Business Mail used to fulfill the job.


The series of number which codes an address. Postcodes can cover a number of properties as well as a single destination. Postcodes are made up of Region (MK) District (42) Sector (7) Group (UA)

PP (Postage Paid)

An envelope that does not need a stamp because it carries a Royal Mail imprint.

PPI (Postage Paid Indicator)

The symbol printed on the mailing envelopes or polybag to indicate that the postage is being paid through an account.

Publishing Mail

A service to publishers for the distribution of magazines and journals. Similar to Business Mail in preparation and distribution, but on a different scale of charges.

Print Finishing

After the printing process is completed, there are still a number of steps before the finished product is ready. Cutting to size, making up the sections in page order, stapling or binding.

Process Colours

The 4 basic colours for printing half tone images. Magenta, Cyan Blue, Yellow and Black


The term used to describe the sample of printing produced for approval before the final production takes place.


The process of removing duplicates or other unwanted names and addresses from a mailing list.

Relational Database

A database showing the relationship between various pieces customer information. This can include anything from contact details to a customer's purchasing history or other records held.

Response and Fulfillment

A service where customer requests for literature or products are received and recorded on a database. The data is then used to prepare, package and post daily or by batch processing.

Response Rate

The amount of responses received from a mailing campaign as a percentage of the total mailings sent.

Return Envelopes

Stamped or unstamped addressed reply envelopes for use by the customer to encourage them to reply and make it easier for them to do so.

Routing Optimisation

The process to determine the most effective postal service for a mailing. Royal Mail's Bulk Mail services offer the widest range of postal solutions for many types of large volume mailing campaigns including a choice of delivery speeds.


The opening greeting phrase of a letter. For example: Dear Mr. Smith, Dear John etc.


False names and addresses added to a list by the list owner to check the usage of a rented list.


Where the data is presented in a manner which allows it to be sorted into order without any extra processing. For example if the postcode is in the same position in each record, the data is sortable by postcode.

Split Test

Representative samples from the same list are used by different versions of the same campaign to test the response rates. For example, two mailers with different designs could be sent to different selections of the same list


Used in direct marketing, the processing of a data file to remove records which are NOT or be mailed.


An initial mailing released to generate excitement and curiosity about a subsequent mailing or product launch. Can also refer to materials printed on the envelope to encourage the recipient to open and read the mailing.

The Bereavement Register (TBR)

This file is collected in collaboration with local government registrars, law firms, hospitals, funeral directors throughout the UK within 7 days of death.

The Deceased Register (TDR)

This file is collected in collaboration with local registrars throughout the UK at the time the death is registered.

Unsolicited Mailings

A mailing which is sent to a private individual where there has been no request for the mail to be sent.

Variable Data Printing (VDP)

VDP uses selected text and images to produce highly personalised documents creating unique messages tailored to individual customers without slowing down the print process

Weigh Counting

A method of counting a large amount of paper materials to be used in a mailing. Normally a few items are carefully weighed, then the whole consignment is weighed and the total number of items are calculated.

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