Most letters to Santa and anyone else in the world will be zipping through the Provo Post Office faster than you can say "Rudolph" this Christmas season.

The Provo Post Office installed an optical character reader Wednesday that can read and sort 10 to 12 letters a second - up to 25,000 letters an hour. The reader sorts letters 10 times faster than manual sorting or a single position sorter can, said Wally Adams, acting postmaster."The OCR allows us to process mail faster than ever before," he said. "It's amazing what it does. In a tenth of a second it reads the address, sprays a bar code on the letter and sorts it."

The new machine is not only faster, it's cheaper to operate, Adams said.

"It costs us $3 to process 1,000 letters on an OCR, $15 on a mechanized letter-sorting machine and $35 using the hand-sorting method."

A drawback: the machine doesn't read handwriting very well. Letters the machine can't read are diverted to a bin where they can be processed using one of the other two methods. The machine also can't read writing on green or red envelopes very well, Adams said. In fact, smaller post offices south of Provo are separating red and green envelopes from other mail so they won't be sent through the optical character reader.

Adams hopes that eventually the optical character reader will be able to process at least 50 percent of the mail passing through the Provo office. The Provo Post Office processes mail for all of the state south of Provo.

The Provo Post Office is working with local businesses to standardize their mailings so they can be sent through the new machine.

Other postal customers also are asked to make the following changes in the way they address mail so it can be read by the machine:

- Machine-print or block print addresses on letters.

- Use all capital letters.

- Don't use any punctuation.

- Make sure the last line of the address includes the city, state and ZIP code.

- Abbreviate address information - ST for street, AVE for avenue and UT for Utah.

- Put attention lines at the top of the address.

Letters addressed this way will receive faster, more efficient and accurate mail service, Adams said.