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- Glossary of Terms



American Bankers Association.

Aligning Edge
The bottom edge of a check when its face is viewed.

The vertical variation between the bottom edges of adjacent MICR characters.

Amount Field
The character positions within the MICR line of a check which contains the amount of the check.

Amount Symbol
Special MICR character used to separate the amount field from the adjacent field.

American National Standards Institute.

Auxiliary On-Us Field
An optional field to the left of the Routing Field on the MICR line, typically used on commercial checks for the consecutive serial number. Any data printed in this field must be preceded and followed by On-Us Symbols.


Batch Header
A serially numered process control document that preceeds a batch of items to be entered for processing.

Bank of first deposit (of a check).


Character Space/Position
The space or position where a magnetic ink character appears in the MICR line. Only one character is permitted in a character space.

Character-to-Character Spacing
The distance between adjacent MICR characters, measured from the right edge of one character to the right edge of the adjacent character.

An draft or order upon a bank for the payment of a certain sum of money to a named person or to a bearer, payable upon demand.

Check Digit
A digit, usually positioned as a suffix, that can be computed from the other digits in a field by a mathematical formula. The check digit is used to check the validity of the total field.

Check Routing Number
The denominator of a fraction (located in the upper right corner of a check), appearing on checks drawn on all Federal Reserve member banks. The numerator of the fraction is the ABA
transit number.

Clear Band
A horizontal band 0.625 inch high measured from the aligning edge
of the document, parallel to that edge, and extending the length of the document. It is reserved for the printing of MICR characters. Also called MICR Clear Band.

The official name of the MICR font developed by the French company Machines Bull which consists of ten numeric characters and five symbols. It has been the official French standard since 1964. Other countries using this font are found in Europe, South America and Asia.

Convenience Amount
The value of the check expressed in numbers. If this value differs from the legal amount,
the legal amount prevails.

The distortion of paper which often results when paper is exposed to heat, pressure, moisture, and drying. Laser printing the same page more than once is a common cause, which can create paper jams or other problems in laser printers.


Dash Symbol

Special MICR character sometimes used in the transit or on-us fields of the MICR line.

The sunken impression of a printed character on a paper document caused by impact printing processes that use an excessive amount of pressure to imprint the character. It is not normally a problem in laser printing. The specification is .001 inch from the surface of the document, but .0015 inch debossment is permitted.

An acronym for Dual Inline Memory Module. Like their predecessor SIMMs, DIMMs are small integrated circuit boards that fit into internal slots to add memory to computers or printers. Font DIMMs are used to add fonts to printers as an alternative to font cartridges.

A computer file that describes properties of a device (such as a laser printer) to the computer. A cartridge driver provides details about the cartridge fonts so that they can be accessed through applications software


The official name of the font used in magnetic ink printing in the United States, Canada and several other countries. Use of the term E-13B generally implies both the character shape as well as the magnetic aspects of the printing. It consists of ten numeric characters and four symbols.

Printing that is raised above the surface of the paper as in laser printing. Although no formal standard for embossment has been set, the same objective of .001 inch applicable to debossment can be assumed.

The process of imprinting MICR characters on checks, deposits, or other bank documents.

Escape Character
This is a control code character, corresponding to ASCII decimal code 27 and hexadecimal code 1B, that is used by the laser printer to identify a string of characters as a printer command. When this character is received by the printer, the printer reads it and its associated characters as a command to be performed and not data to be printed. Software applications have different ways of placing the character in the program.

External Processing Code Field (EPC Field)
A single-digit optional field for special purposes located to the immediate left of the Routing Field on a check.

Extraneous Ink
Any magnetic ink, other than the printed MICR characters, that is located within the Clear Band. When laser printing MICR documents, care must be taken to assure that no part of text, lines, signatures or other magnetic ink is printed in the Clear Band.


A specified portion of the MICR line that is limited to a set of one or more characters that may be treated as a unit of information.

A set of characters that have similar characteristics. A laser font has an assigned name, typeface, spacing, height, pitch, style, stroke weight, symbol set and orientation.

Font Cartridge
A small electronic component that is inserted into the appropriate slot of some laser printer models in order to provide additional capabilities such as fonts or macros. See the Font Compatibility Table for a listing of printers with available Font Cartridge slots.

Font Height
The height of the body of a fontís characters measured in points. It is usually slightly greater than the distance from the bottom of a lower-case descender to the top of an unaccented capital letter.


The direction of the fibers in a sheet of paper. Fibers in long grain papers run parallel to the long dimension of the cut sheet. In short grain papers they run parallel with the short side. Long grain paper is generally preferred for laser check printing.


Home Bank
The bank from which a check (or other MICR document) has been drawn upon.


International Organization for Standardization.


Landscape orientation refers to printing across the length of the page, as opposed to portrait orientation which prints across the width of the page.

Leading Edge
The right edge of a check when its face is viewed.

Legal Amount
The value of the check expressed in text. If this value differs from the convenience amount, the legal amount prevails.

The name of a company or product in a special design used as a trademark in advertising.


A series of laser printer escape code sequences, control codes and data whose execution can be initiated with a single printer command.

Magnetic Ink
Usually printer's ink to which iron oxide particles have been added. In regard to MICR laser printing, it refers to toner with magnetic characteristics.

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition
A system used to enable electronic and visual reading of information on a check. The E-13B font is used in the United States, Canada and other countries for MICR check encoding. France and several other countries use the CMC-7 font. For more information see our World MICR Table.

Acronym for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition. It consists of magnetic ink printed characters that can be recognized by high-speed magnetic and/or optical recognition equipment.

The .25-inch high region centered in the clear band that contains the E-13B MICR characters.


Optical Character Recognition. A technique for reading a font optically. The font can be an OCR font, the E-13B, or others depending on the capabilities of the hardware. OCR may refer to the technique, the machine, or any aspect related to the technique or machine.

On-Us Field
A data field in the MICR line on a check reserved for bank use which usually includes the account number, an optional processing code and, on personal checks, the serial number. An On-Us Symbol usually appears to the right of the account number.

On-Us Symbol
Special MICR character used in the On-Us field and Auxiliary On-Us field.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Machine reading by optical means of printed, human readable characters (as opposed to optical mark or bar code reading).

The direction of printed characters on a page. Portrait orientation refers to print across the width of a page. Landscape orientation refers to print across the length of a page.


A printed pattern of a logo or art creating a decorative background. Usually intended as an anti-alteration security feature in a check.

Paper Dust
Particles of loose paper fibers and other residues which naturally accumulate inside printers. Controlling paper dust is a serious issue for Laser Printers in terms of print quality and printer performance.

The number of characters in a font that can be printed in a horizontal inch. Pitch only applies to fixed-space fonts. The E-13B font pitch is 10 characters per inch.

A measurement of font height approximately equal to 1/72nd inch.

Refers to the printing across the width of a page (letter style). This is the opposite of landscape orientation, which is printing across the length of the page.

Amount field encoding of deposited items prior to their receipt by a bank.

Print Density
The relative darkness of print on the page which affects the amount of magnetic ink applied to a page. Laser printer density settings are controlled either mechanically (wheel or slide bar) or through printer menu selection.


High-speed automated paper handling machines that can recognize magnetic ink characters printed in E-13B or compatible fonts. The reading is done through recognition of the waveform of the character, its magnetic pattern, its visual structure, or a combination of these techniques.

Read Head
The sensing device in reader/sorters that picks up the magnetic signals of E-13B characters. These are converted into electrical pulses and subsequently interpreted by the reader/sorter's processor.

The printing of variable data so that it fits correctly into areas provided for it on preprinted forms.

Routing (or Transit) Field
Positions 33 through 43 of the MICR line used for the Routing Number, bracketed on both sides by Transit Symbols.

Routing (or Transit) Number
The numeric identifier of a particular financial institution. It is printed in the Routing Field on checks.

Routing or Transit Symbol
Special MICR character used exclusively in the Routing (or Transit) Field.


Safety Paper
Highly calendered bond paper having a surface design and/or hidden warning indicator to identify any attempt at fraudulent alteration.

Serial Number
Often used to refer to the sequential check or document number found in the Auxiliary On-Us Field of commercial checks and the On-Us Field of personal checks.

Signal Level/Strength
The amplitude of the voltage wave form produced when a DC magnetized MICR character is scanned by a magnetic reading head. The relative signal level from any printed MICR character may vary from 50% to 200% of its nominal signal level. Also called "signal strength".

An acronym for Single Inline Memory Module. SIMMs are small integrated circuit boards that fit into internal slots to add memory to computers or printers. Font SIMMs are used to add fonts to printers as an alternative to font cartridges.

The amount of variation from vertical of a MICR character with respect to the bottom edge of the document, measured in degrees. It is not normally a problem in laser printing. The maximum allowable skew is 1.5į.

Fonts have either fixed or proportional spacing. Fixed-spaced fonts have constant inter-character spacing. Character spacing in proportionally-spaced fonts varies with the shape of the character.

Stroke Weight
A description of the thickness of the strokes that compose characters in a font. Bold, medium and light are examples of stroke weights.

The angularity of the characters in a font. Upright and italic are examples of style.

An E-13B character separating the fields or separating digits within a field. The four E-13B symbols are Amount, On-Us, Transit, and Dash. In the CMC-7 font the five symbols are named S-1 through S-5.

Symbol Set
A unique collection and ordering of all the characters available in a font. Most symbol sets are designed for a specific type of application. For example, the E-13B MICR symbol set contains only the numerals 0 through 9 and the four special symbols used for encoding MICR on checks.


Trailing Edge
The left edge of a check when its face is viewed.

Transit Number
The unique identifying number assigned by the ABA to each US bank. It appears in the upper right-hand corner of checks as the numerator (upper portion) of a fraction.

Transit Number Field
See Routing Field.

A unique name which identifies the set of physical and conceptual characteristics on which a fontís design is based.


microMICR's versatile font device which attaches to the laser printer parallel port. It is compatible with a wide variety of printers.


Absence of ink or toner within the specified outline of a printed MICR character.

Void Pantograph
A pantograph that produces the word "void" or other warning when a copy of the original check is made.


A MICR characterís unique "magnetic footprint" composed of the peaks and valleys of the magnetic wave form produced when the character is scanned by a magnetic reading head. It is the basis for electronic recognition of MICR characters.

Write Head
The device in reader/sorters that magnetizes the ink printed in the clear band area of a MICR document.