Even if you don't live in America, you're probably aware that we use "ZIP Codes" as part of our snail-mail post addresses over here. For example, a typical address might read as follows:
Professor Cuthbert Dribble
101 Armpit Road
Grunge, AL 35749
In this case, the "35749" is the main 5-digit ZIP code. What you might not know is that this code only guides your mail in to a fairly large area ^– after that, it's up to the local post office to determine its final destination. The problem is that this may not be as easy as it seems depending on the quality of the handwriting of the person who is addressing the letter or parcel.
In order to address this issue, everyone has an additional 4-digit ZIP code that ties things down to a few houses or buildings. Unfortunately, very few people take the time to capture this additional information in their address books.
Another consideration is that the USPS has a standard format for specifying addresses, including standard abbreviations for things like "Road" (RD), "Court" (CT), "Suite" (STE), and others so obscure that you would never guess them in a million years. For example, consider the way in which you or I might jot down an address:
1500 East Main Avenue, Suite 201
Groin, Louisiana, 70791
The standardized form of this address, including an imaginary 4-digit ZIP code, would be as follows:
1500 E MAIN AVE STE 201
GROIN, LA 70791-0603
The point of all this (yes, there is a point) is that my mother-in-law just pointed me at a jolly useful website: http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp
. If you key in someone's address the way you'd normally write it, this site will present you with the full address – including the extra 4-digit ZIP code – in the standardized form preferred by the USPS.
My mother-in-law assures me that the use of the standardized form (which is easiest to read by, and offers the most accurate results from, the automatic sorting machines) – coupled with the use of the additional 4-digit ZIP code – means that your post often arrives at its intended destination much faster (sometimes days faster).
This is particularly advantageous at this time of the year for those amongst us who have left writing our Christmas Cards and sending our Christmas Presents until the very last minute (What? I never mentioned anything about my lovely wife Gina and you can't say that I did!)
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.