USPS Reveals the 3 Popular Pens You Should Never Use on Your Mail

Don't put your items at risk of not being delivered or getting stolen.

We've all felt that occasional sense of uncertainty at the post office, especially if we don't make a habit of shipping things out often. Did I pick the right envelope or package for my shipment? Am I using enough stamps? Those are important questions to consider, but the devil's in the details, and sometimes something as simple as your writing utensil can cause complications for your outgoing mail. In order to avoid any hiccups, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has released some important warnings. Read on to discover the three popular pens you should never use on your mail.

RELATED: USPS Just Issued a New Warning About Mailing Cash.

The USPS is urging customers to be more cautious with their mail during the holidays.

Mailman with package during snow storm. Taken January 7, 2017 in New York.
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Few things put a damper on the holidays like gifts not arrive to them on time. Unfortunately, with Thanksgiving through New Year's Day being the Postal Service's peak season, delays are always a possibility.

That's why USPS spokesperson Jonathan Castillo is urging customers to be more cautious with their mail right now in a Nov. 20 blog post for the agency's Holiday Happenings website.

"The holiday season can bring challenges. Shipping and mailing shouldn't be one of them," Castillo writes. "Make sure your holiday packages and mail land on the right doorstep."

RELATED: USPS Issues New Warning About Delivery Delays and How to Avoid Them.

You should make sure your items are properly addressed.

sepia tinted selective focus image of letters
iStock

The USPS puts in a lot of work during the rest of the year to prepare for the heightened holiday demand. That includes "leveraging investments in its people, infrastructure, transportation, and technology to ensure the smooth, timely delivery of seasonal mail and packages," according to Castillo.

But customers can and should do their part, too. "One thing customers can do to help is to address their items properly," Castillo notes.

In his blog post, he says that means putting the recipient's address and the return address in the right spots. The recipient's address should go in the center, while the return address should go in the northwest corner of the letter or package, above and to the left of the recipient's address.

RELATED: USPS Postal Inspector Reveals How to Mail Checks to Avoid Theft.

There are two pens you should avoid using when doing this.

Female hands with red nails write on a sheet of paper
iStock

It's not just where you're writing these addresses, but also how you're writing them.

"It's very important to write everything legibly," Castillo cautions. "While the Postal Service uses highly sophisticated scanners that can decipher most handwriting, writing neatly will help prevent your mailpiece from becoming undelivered due to an illegible address."

To help this process even further, Castillo says you should avoid using two types of pens in particular: red pens and pens that have ink that smears. "If possible, type and print your labels," he recommends.

Your pen choice can also help prevent your mail from being stolen.

Male human hand getting the mail
iStock

While undeliverable mail and delays are certainly frustrating—especially during the holiday season—getting your items stolen is even more worrisome. But it's something you need to consider, as the rate of mail theft has been rising dramatically across the U.S.

In a recent interview with Federal News Network, Postal Inspector Michael Martel said that the inspection branch of the USPS has seen an "alarming" increase in letter carrier robberies in recent years.

These criminals are usually tied to check-washing schemes, where they use chemicals to erase information from a check and then cash it fraudulently, according to Ryan Moody, the senior vice president of payments product management at the marketing solutions firm Vericast.

That's where your writing utensil comes in: If you're using a non-gel pen, you could be making it much easier for the thieves to steal your money. In other words, you should avoid non-gel pens for your mailed checks whenever possible.

As Moody explained to Federal News Network, the ink of gel pens absorb into the paper and make it harder to wash. "When those chemicals get applied to a check that has that ink absorbed into the paper, those chemicals don't stand much of a chance against that, so it's very easy to see that check has been modified," he said.

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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