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Tips & Bits #25: The Code That Can Help You Maintain Your Sanity

If you or your company creates documents, forms or other kinds of printed materials on an ongoing basis, the practice of labeling each issue with a Literature Code is worthy of your consideration.

Now you may be thinking that your business is too small for such a system – that you don’t have enough different kinds of materials to keep track of. The truth is, in addition to helping with the organization and categorization of a variety of printed materials, such a system is extremely useful in terms of ensuring that the most recent edition is being used and that out-of-date editions can be discarded or destroyed with confidence.

If you take a close look at most forms you receive – particularly those issued by government agencies – there is a group of numbers and letters in tiny type at the bottom of the page. Ever wonder why they’re there?

These are Literature Codes that help the people in a warehouse somewhere organize them and store them in some sort of order. The same system helps these folks find them and send them out to whoever needs a fresh supply when they are called for. They also allow the warehouse to easily order them from the printer when the supply runs low.

These codes are often based on a system that evolves from specific in-house needs. Of particular value is an indication of the version of the document, or at least the date of printing. This enables everyone to see if they are working with the current and applicable version of the document or form. (There’s nothing more frustrating than having to fill out a form all over again if the form has been superseded by a more recent edition.)

Some companies are so large, and have to keep track of such a huge volume of materials, that they have adopted a system that utilizes bar codes and electronic readers.

A superb example of a system for marking and tracking materials is the Dewy Decimal System (currently known as the Dewey Decimal Classification) that has been used by libraries for more than 125 years. Based on a ten digit numerical system, Melvil Dewey was able to successfully categorize the vast variety of books that a library must house and track. He created his practical and popular system in 1876. The DDC can be found in over 200,000 libraries in 135 countries throughout the world.

Make your life easier by creating a system for tracking your printed materials. It can be as simple as a making a document log on a page of notebook paper with a single digit for each item. But as your business grows and you realize that forms and materials need to be revised, you’ll be glad you have a system of organization to keep track of your work.


Examples of the kinds of printed items that have Literature Codes at the bottom of the page:,_2005.jpg

The ubiquitous and dreaded Form 1040.

The universally annoying mortgage application.

A proof of insurance form. Issued yearly and updated frequently.

Assembly instructions. Usually ignored and referred to after it is too late.


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