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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

What Does Booklet and Catalog Mean for Envelopes?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 27, 2017 4:00:07 PM

Envelopes come in all shapes and sizes but like many specialty items, they have their own descriptive language.

Here’s a quick tutorial on some of the most common envelope terms and what they mean.

 Envelope blanks for converting.jpg

Commercial envelope sizes – Probably the most common envelope size is the standard number 10.  This envelope measures 4 1/8 inches in width and 9 ½ inches in length. I guess it’s called a #10 as that’s easier than a #9 1/2!  The is the envelope that is used when you are mailing a standard letter-size sheet of paper because when you fold that in thirds, it fits perfectly inside. The next most popular size would be the standard number 9. Care to guess what those measurements are?  Yes, that’s right: 3-7/8 x 8-7/8.  I guess whoever came up with these designations decided that using whole numbers that are close to the dimensions was easier all around. 

This type of rounding is consistent throughout all other sizes that are referred to by a number sign.  A #6 ¾ envelope measures 3 5/8 x 6 ½.  A #7 ¾ envelope measures 3 7/8 x 7 ½. Why not call them respectively a #7 or #8 envelope?  Well there’s already a #7 which measures 3 ¾ x 6 ¾ so that one is taken. A #12 envelope measures 4 ¾ x 11.   However, there’s already a #11 envelope and that one measures 4 ½ x 10 3/8.  Oh yeah, the #14 envelope measures 5 x 11 ½. So go figure!

Large envelopes – Envelopes measuring 6 x 9 or over are usually broken down into two types based on the location of the flap.  When the flap is on the shorter dimension side, the envelope is referred to as an Open End or Catalog style. When the flap is on the longer dimension side, it’s called an Open Side or Booklet style envelope. Those terms are interchangeable by style.

Again this is somewhat arbitrary.  Someone, somewhere (I’m going to try to track them down!) apparently decided that the long dimension is a “side” and the short dimension is the “end”; not to mention the curious distinction between booklet and catalog. I mean, is it OK to put a catalog into a booklet style envelope and vice versa?   I don’t think the Envelope Police will care one way or the other.

Seriously, I guess it’s necessary to have some type of agreed-upon standard as a basis for discussion which is how these came about.  Anyone who has spoken to a customer trying to describe their envelope saying, “well, the flap is on the top” can understand the need for that. “Top” and “bottom” are relative terms. Open Side and Open End are not.

 If you find all of this confusing and hard to remember, you’re not alone.  Elite Envelope & Graphics has put together a handy Envelope Buying Guide which lists all the standard sizes and all sorts of other useful reference information for those that buy and sell envelopes. It’s compact and can fit right in your desk blotter so you can take it out and sound like an expert when you’re talking to a customer or prospect.

Comment on this article and give me your address and I’ll send you one.

Topics: Booklet Envelopes, Envelope sizes, Catalog Envelopes, #10 envelope measurements, #9 envelope measurements

Envelope Terms – Where Do They Come From?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 23, 2011 12:45:00 PM

We all go through life using phrases and terms passed down through the years without much thought.  I grew up using the term “gypped” to mean cheated or defrauded without ever realizing that it referred to Romani gypsies who engaged in such practices.  It’s now considered un-PC to use and while in general I’m not a big fan of the PC language police, I agree with this one as it clearly stigmatizes a large group of people on the basis of the actions of a few.

Which brings me to the #10 envelope (how do you like that segue way?).   How many times have those of us in the printing and envelope industries used that term without ever giving a thought to where it came from?  The #10 envelope is just one of the interesting descriptions of various sizes of envelopes that seem to have little relation to the actual size of the piece.

I asked Barbara Monson at the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA), whether she could provide any information about the origin of these terms.  Barbara very helpfully sent me some pages from a book entitled The History of Envelopes by Robert H.Ramage published by the EMA in 1952.

Samuel Raynor started Samuel Raynor & Co in the Bowery section of New York in the mid-1800’s which eventually became one of the largest envelope manufacturers in the country. Apparently either Mr. Raynor or one of his employees first came up with the idea of numbering envelope sizes. This was issued as the Stationers’ Handbook in 1876. Excerpts from the handbook show where many of the terms we use today came from:

              “Envelopes are made in all sizes, but there are certain sizes which are termed regular. These regular sizes, however, vary according to the manufacturer, each manufacturer making envelopes to suit his taste, without regard to any rule”.

             Elite Envelope & Graphics Randolph MA“Envelopes embrace nearly one thousand different kinds,…from the smallest Note size to the largest Official, with Drug, Pay, Glove, Wedding and Mourning Envelope patterns;”

 According to the History of Envelopes, early use of envelopes was confined mostly to personal letters and bill paying. It was only after the advent of machine made envelopes that the cost came down to the point where businesses could use them as part of mailings to boost their sales.  So in the pre-direct mail era, a “commercial” envelope was smaller than 3 5/8 x 6 ½ and anything larger than that was designated an “official” envelope. The History continues, “In the broader sense we sometimes speak of commercial envelopes as opposed to personal correspondence or social stationery envelopes, in this instance using commercial to cover both “commercial” and “official” sizes.

Today, Elite Envelope along with most other envelope companies use the phrase “commercial sizes” to mean anything from a 6 ¼ regular up to a #14.

My next post will continue on this theme. Please let me know if you have any other information on this topic.  Your comments are always most appreciated.

Topics: elite envelope, Envelope terms, envelope manufacturing, Envelope sizes, Envelope Manufacturer's Association, #10 envelope, commercial envelopes, official envelopes

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!


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