Address Correction Service

USPS service, which provides the mailer with the forwarding address of the addressee—if filed with the USPS—or the reason for non-delivery.

Address splitting

Placing city, state and ZIP code into separate fields in a database for more flexible data sorting.

Author’s Alterations (AA’s)

At the proofing stage, changes that the client requests to be made concerning original art provided. AA’s are usually considered an additional cost to the client.




Piece of paper that gets removed from a return envelope via perforation before use and typically includes marketing messages. 

BCS (Barcode Sorter)

A mail processing machine, which reads barcodes on mail and automatically sorts the pieces.


Printing that extends to the edge of a finished printed document. In practice, the image must extend beyond the edge on oversize paper and then trimmed back to finish.


Business reply card.


Business reply envelope.

Break-Even Point

The minimum number of sales necessary for a direct mail campaign to recover its costs.

BRM (Business Reply Mail)

A USPS service that enables mailers to receive First-Class Mail back from customers by paying postage only on the mail actually returned to them by their customers.


A single sheet of paper inserted in a direct mail piece, usually to communicate another offer within the package.



Cleaned List

A mailing list that has had duplicate and unwanted names and addresses removed.


The subtractive primary ink colors, cyan, magenta, yellow and black used to image color in 4-color process printing.

Color space

An abstract model describing a range of colors, and their primary components. Color printing is within the CMYK color space. RGB color space encompasses a greater gamut, and is used to define the colors possible on a computer monitor. LAB color space is essentially all visible colors. (see gamut).

Comb Binding

Plastic comb binding inserted through holes punched in bindery edge of leaves.


The direct mail piece–the concept, creative and format–that delivers your best response, which is used as a benchmark in testing.

Corrupt File

An electronic file that either will not open, or produces unexpected and unwanted results due to any number of reasons. This problem most often occurs when copying, compressing or transferring files, because the file is incorrectly interpreted.

Crop Marks

Short lines outside the margin of a print document to indicate the finished size.

Customer Profile

A collection of data on customers, stored in a computer system and used by businesses to target marketing efforts by determining customers’ characteristics and purchase patterns.


A printed piece with variable content targeted to a particular group of people.




A collection of information stored in a computer that can be easily accessed and manipulated.

Database Marketing

Any direct communication to a consumer or business recipient that is intended to generate a response. Also known as direct marketing.


Debossing means the reverse of embossing. The use of heated dies to stamp or press a depressed image into a substrate.


Characteristics, such as household income, age, education level, family size, etc., that define a particular group of people.

Direct Mail

A comprehensive system of media and methods for solicitations mailed directly to a large number of customers and prospects, seeking to develop or enhance a client relationship.

Direct Marketing

Any direct communication to a consumer or business recipient that is intended to generate a response and the comprehensive systems of media and methods that support it. Coined by Lester Wunderman, who described it as a way to “sell specific people specific things in more convenient ways.” Also known as database marketing.

Dot Gain

Phenomenon of halftone dots printing larger on paper than they are on film or plates, reducing detail and lowering contrast. Also called dot growth, dot spread and press gain.


Measure of resolution of input devices such as scanners, display devices such as monitors, and output devices such as laser printers, imagesetters and monitors. Abbreviated DPI. Also called dot pitch or spots-per-inch (SPI).


A folded guide created early in the design process to indicate rough content. Sometimes referred to as a comp.


Two or more identical name-and-address records.

Dynamic Printing

Any ink or toner image placed on paper or other substrate through a digital printing process that varies the text, data or images on each sheet in response to information in databases. Also known as variable data printing and variable information printing.




Emboss means using a die to press an image into paper so it lies above the surface. It results in a dimensional image on a sheet. The embossing may be single level or sculptured (referred to as multilevel). Single level dies are least expensive and may be mechanically prepared. 
Multilevel dies are made in much the same way a sculptor executes a work of art and are therefore more expensive. Embossing may be either blind (without any printed image), foil (application of foil at the same time as embossing), or printed (embossing over a previously printed image).




Finishing includes die cutting, coating, laminating, embossing, punching, and gluing. Today, many of these processes are accomplished inline on the press. Some, like folding, are basic to turning the press sheet into a product. Others, like stamping, are decorative and can enhance the design. Still others, like aqueous and UV coating, can be both decorative and protect the printed product. Binding is the work required to convert printed sheets into books, brochures, catalogs, and more.


A mail piece that exceeds one or more dimensions of letter-size mail (11.5” x 6 1/8”x.25”) but is within the size specifications for mail processing (15” x 12”x.75”).

Foil Stamping

Stamp means pressing a heated die onto a sheet of foil, which releases the foil from its backing and adheres it to a substrate. Foils are not only metallic but may be holographic, tinted, or pigmented. Pigmented foils, including white, are usually opaque and are used frequently to imprint a light image or type on dark stocks.


Bending or pressing something so that one part is over another. As a finishing operation, folding either creates signatures, brochures, maps, inserts, etc. Machines for folding are high-speed, high-tech devices that use combinations of knives and rollers to rapidly and accurately fold sheets. Common folds are illustrated on the left.


In direct marketing, the rate at which a consumer or business buys products or services in the target category.

Front End

The computer that hosts the operator interface and printer controller for a digital press or printer. Also called the controller, RIP or server.

Front-End Marketing

The identification of potential customers. Also called prospecting.


Forest Steward Council: a worldwide organization dedicated to the responsible management of the world’s renewable natural resources, including the pulp used to make paper.


The response to queries and orders generated through direct marketing.

Fulfillment House

A company specializing in responding to and tracking queries and orders generated through direct marketing.




A certain subset of all visible colors. The range of colors, or gamut possible on a printed sheet is less than that offered by a color monitor. The monitor displays a greater gamut of colors than the printed sheet.


Common to all items in a class; not personalized.




A press sheet layout or template guide used to locate and position pages to facilitate finishing in the bindery.

In-House List

A list of customer names, addresses and other contact information compiled and maintained by a company.


Imprinted designation on mail that denotes postage payment, for example, a permit imprint.


Any item that is placed in a direct mail package.

Interactive Marketing

Using technologies to give a target audience easy, intelligent ways to interact with the marketer, including e-mail, web sites, interactive TV and more.



Johnson Box

A headline-like statement above the body of a direct-mail letter, stating the main message of the offer in a compelling way.




A color space model implemented by the International Color Consortium (CIELAB) to describe all visible colors. (see color space)


The design and arrangement of text and graphics on a page.

Lead Generation

Any direct-response advertising communication–through any medium–that is designed to generate interest in a product or a service, provide the prospective buyer with a means to request and receive additional information about the product or service. Usually involves forwarding a lead to a salesperson.
A request for further information or a sales call generated by direct marketing.

Letter shop

Businesses providing print and mailing services for direct mail, including collation, insertions, addressing and mailing.

List Broker

A person or company that brings together owners of lists and the direct mailers who use them.

List Cleaning

Correcting or updating a mailing list to standardize addresses, eliminate duplicates and make other corrections as required.

List Compiler

A person or company that specializes in gathering names, addresses and other information from various sources to produce a customized list of prospective customers.

Live Stamp/Live Postage

A postage stamp, which a consumer would use, as opposed to metered mailings.


A customer or segment of the population that has the same characteristics as current customers.




A camera-ready paste-up of art work, including type, photos, line art and other materials on one art board.


The process of combining two or more lists into one.


The process of combining data from multiple lists to identify and eliminate duplicate names for a single mailing or to create a marketing database.



Name Parsing

Placing first name and last name in separate fields in a database.

NCOA (National Change of Address list)

A list of U.S. addresses that have changed in the last three years, made available by the USPS to licensees for correcting addresses on lists and in marketing databases.


A piece of mail that is returned to the sender because the address was incorrect and forwarding services weren’t guaranteed.



OCR (Optical Character Reader)

An automated mail processing machine that scans addresses on mail and applies the proper postal barcode.

OE (Outer Envelope)

The envelope that delivers a direct mail package, often with a teaser on the front to entice the recipient to open it.


The thing you want the targets of your direct marketing campaign to buy, order or otherwise act upon.


The process of printing from a lithographic plate whereby the work is first imaged onto a rubber blanket and then “offset” from the rubber blanket to the paper.
An unwanted effect where the ink from the front of one sheet transfers to the back of another sheet in the stack, causing smudges. Sometimes called set-off

On-Press Proofs

Proofs printed on the same digital press that will be used for production to show exactly how the final piece will look.

One-To-One Marketing

Marketing process through which a business customizes communications for individual consumers, making it relevant to each specific customer.


The number of pieces by which a print run is over the quantity ordered. Also called “overs.”




Adobe’s Portable Document format, designed to modify electronic PostScript documents so that they can be read and processed across any platform.

Perfect Binding

Individual leaves are glued at the spine to form the book. Ask for special preparation instructions.


Adobe’s fundamental electronic page-description language used in the digital printing industry to create and image documents.


A proof is any imaged document intended for checking the content or quality of the project prior to actual print production. Hard proofs are on paper or similar substrate. Hard proofs intended to prove the quality of the image are called contract proofs. Those intended to show content and positioning are called imposition proofs. Electronic proofs viewed on a monitor are called soft proofs.



QR code

A QR code or “Quick Response” code is a two-dimensional code that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, a URL or other data.




In multi-color printing, the exact positioning of overprint images. Printing that does not line up is said to be mis-registered.


The additive primary colors of light, red, green and blue. RGB is the color model used to describe colors on a computer monitor.



Saddle Stitching

Signatures inserted into each other and stitched through the spine. Requirements: Lip on back of signature at least 1/4”. Head trims and foot trims should be 1/8”.


Mechanically creasing the substrate to indicate fold positions and to facilitate folding. Heavy stocks or those requiring very precise folding should be scored prior to folding.


A contact inserted into a mailing list to help verify that the list is used according to the agreed-upon terms, by tracking the number of uses, for example.


Division of the market into smaller groups based upon geographic, demographic and other common variables for the purpose of directing specific marketing at precise targets.


See controller, front end or RIP.

Sheet-Fed Press

A printing press that prints on single, pre-cut sheets of paper fed from trays.

Shelf Life

The length of time before a printed piece becomes obsolete, usually because its information goes out of date.

SIC Code (Standard Industrial Classification Code)

A numeric code established by the U.S. government to designate various industries as defined by their functions and products for tracking business-related census data. Direct marketers use them to segment lists and target promotions.

Side Stitch

Stapled through stack, parallel to spine.


Arranging mail pieces in ZIP code order to facilitate processing and to qualify for lower postage fees.

Source Code

A unique identifier attached to a mailing, coupon or other marketing communication for performance tracking.

Source Files

Original layout files that can be changed in prepress or workflow stages if necessary.

Spiral Binding

Wire or plastic spiral inserted through holes punched in bindery edge of leaves. Requirements: Margin should allow for binding.

Static Printing

Any ink or toner image on paper or other substrate that is the same for each sheet reproduced through a digital or traditional ink-on-paper printing process.




A preliminary implementation of a direct marketing campaign with two random target groups receiving versions that differ by a single variable, to determine which version is likely to be the most successful.


The maintenance of records concerning details of a direct marketing program and its performance.


Removing the edges of printed sheets to clean up marginal items like crop marks, color bars, etc. Since trimming cannot be 100% accurate from sheet to sheet, certain tolerances must be taken into account.




The number of pieces by which a print run is short of the quantity ordered. The trade standard practice is that 10% over or under constitutes delivery.

UV (Ultraviolet Curing)

Process of applying a clear coating to a printed page using ultraviolet radiation to rapidly turn the coating to a solid film.



Variable Data Printing (VDP)

Any ink or toner image placed on paper or other substrate through a digital printing process that varies the text, data or images on each sheet in response to information in databases. Also known as dynamic printing and variable information printing.

Variable Information Printing (VI)

Any ink or toner image placed on paper or other substrate through a digital printing process that varies the text, data or images on each sheet in response to information in databases. Also known as dynamic printing and variable data printing.



Web Press

A printing press that prints on a continuous web of paper fed from a roll.

Web to Print

The automated process by which print work is ordered via the web.

White Space

Area on a printed page that has no art or text.

Window Envelope

Envelopes with an opening or transparent window through which an address printed on an insert is visible.

Work and Tumble, Work and Turn, Work and Roll, Work and Back

A press sheet layout convention that allows both sides of a print job to imaged on a single set of plates. The press sheet is worked, or printed on one side and then the paper is turned over and printed using the same set of plates.


Sources for these definitions include Xerox Corporation and Direct Mail by the Numbers from the United States Postal Service.

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