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The Complete Guide to Writing a Mailing Address

The 21st century has seen the electronic media is taking over all communication channels, slowly but steadily. The inception of email in the program ARPANET by Ray Tomlinson started the revolution, continued by the likes of Shiva Ayyadurai, who made email for the masses, and Mark Zuckerberg, who've all contributed to negate any need for physical mails. 

However, the physical mail, though almost obsolete, is still required for formal document verifications, sending parcels and packages, and more. This gives rise to the need to be aware of the mailing address protocols because nobody really has the time to actually check them out before an urgent parcel dispatch. 

Knowing the correct procedures of writing a mailing address is crucial to facilitate a clean-sailing delivery.  

Here is a guide on the sections that you are going to get familiarized with and clear your doubts on writing a mailing address.

- What is an address?

- How to mention an address on an envelope

- How to mention an address on a business letter

- How to format a military address 

- How to mention an international address

- How to mention domestic address

- Tips for mentioning the address

- Examples of showing address

What is an address?

An address is a means to identify or locate a person, house, or organization. Any plot is defined by an address - which includes recipient name, house number, street name, landmark, and postal codes of the particular region. Sub-divisions of the town or block are also a part of an address, depending on the location and protocols. 

Ron is planning to send a gift to his friend Jen, who lives a couple of thousand miles away. This is the first time they are spending a birthday apart, and he does not want to miss it this year too. He plans to send the gift through post, but unfortunately gets the recipient address wrong. He has to go over to the FedEx office to resend it with the right format. He missed half a day's work to resolve the issue. 

It is easy to say it is Ron's fault, but the decreasing need to mail letters is the underlying cause of such an incident. 

This guide will help you answer all your queries in regards to how do you address a letter and all its underlying ins and outs so that you are not as troubled as Ron.   

How to mention an address on an envelope 

The addresses on the envelope are a mandate which you cannot afford to a mix-up. Even the slightest of errors will result in non-delivery of the package, and needless to say, unwanted hassle which you are not looking forward to. 

With at least 16mm on top and bottom on either side of an envelope or the postcard you are mailing, leaving ample space for the authority to put any barcode for delivery requirements, depending on the state it is being mailed from, it is necessary to keep it flawless. Write it on the larger side of the envelope, or keep it parallel to the longest edge of the parcel. 

  • The sender's address: One of the two addresses you need to include on the postcard or envelope is the sender's address – or yours. This is just in case the package does not get delivered to the mentioned destination, and the postal service needs to return it to you. It is not a compulsory aspect, but some official mails need the sender's address, by default, failing which it is not a valid official mail. 

Also referred to as the return address, here is a list of what you need to include in this section:

Name: Including your name is a must in your letter or parcel. It must be placed on the first line of address and must be mentioned in a clean and legible font to minimize any harassment for the delivery service provider. 

Business Name: This is optional as per your requirements. If you intend to send it from the business address, it is in your best interest if you also write the business name, so it's easily identifiable, should the need arise. 

Building number: A building is differentiated in the books of the government as per the building numbers and is given a unique identity in the region. It is of monumental importance to get this right, or chances are it will come back to you, and you will need to take time out from your daily schedule to put it right. 

ZIP: This comes in the final line of address and is filled with the designated postal code or zipcode as assigned by the United States Postal Service. It is specific to the locality or region, as the number keeps on increasing from the east coast to the west coast. 

  • The recipient's address: The second address you must write on the envelope is that of the recipient. Otherwise, it might just be returned to you. If you are unsure of how to write out an envelope in regards to recipient information, here are the details: 

Recipient's name

Building number, street name

State, city, or ZIP code on the final line

The final step is adding a stamp or stamps on the letter. In the United States of America, there are quite a few options when it comes to stamps. The number of stamps you need to use depends on the weight of the parcel. 

Given below is a guide to help you out.

In the USA, you can use forever stamps to ship anywhere in the country for letters or parcels weighing up to 1 ounce. Forever stamps are a wise choice as you can use these irrespective of the prices in the future. For every ounce more than 1, you need to attach 1 stamp worth 15cents, and this goes on with an increase per ounce of the parcel. You can also make hay of 2 ounce stamps if you have a heavier parcel.

However, while sending postcards, it will be helpful if you save those forever stamps as the postcard stamps are normally cheaper.

How to mention an address on a business letter

When you are writing a business letter, it is not only important for you to use formal language but also adhere to a universally accepted format. Otherwise, the letter will lack a formal touch, and not the best way to make a great impression, is it? 

So, how to properly address a letter to give it maximum traction?

  • Contact details: If you are writing a letter, chances are you are also looking for a reply or feedback, if you may. So, the recipient needs to know your address, the designation you hold, and of course – you! So, this section should contain:
  1. Your full name
  2. The organization you are working for, or the one you are contacting on behalf of
  3. The third line should contain the names of the city or the town, its state, and the ZIP code. 
  4. You can also choose to include your country in case you are communicating with someone abroad.
  5. Including your work email and phone number is always a great help! 
  • Date: Including the date in a business letter is your top priority when you are wondering about how to address a letter. Without a date, the letter lacks validation and has no conviction of the time in which it is written. You simply do not want an offer letter without the date on it, do you? 
  • Recipient Details: This section is all about the person you are writing the letter to. It must have the name of the recipient, the position the recipient holds (for example, Phil Jones, MD. This is followed by the organization he/she works for. The third line should entail the street and city/town name, after which you need to add the zip code and the country in the following line if the receiver is stationed abroad. 
  • Usage of salutation: Most commonly used official salutation for people who you have not yet met is "Dear" and following it up with a comma (,) or a colon (:) punctuation. You can also use Dear Sir or Madam if you are unsure of gender of the person you are sending it to. Remember to leave a line space between the last line of the recipient details and salutation. 

How to format a military address

John is going to write to his mother for the first time. He is always bad at writing letters and hated the idea of penning thoughts, which automatically restricted him from knowing the nuances of mailing letters to the army. But this Christmas, he felt otherwise and decides to write a letter to his mother, as there is otherwise no possible means of contact in the next week, at least. After finishing the letter, he is facing a crisis he did not foresee. He does not know which state or city he needs to address it to. He goes to the post office and talks to the person at the help desk. 

If you are in a dilemma about how to write address on a letter while writing to someone stationed in a military post like John, this is an apt place to get all your doubts cleared without taking much of your time.

First off, details you include while writing a military letter are almost identical to the ones you write on regular mails, but a tricky part comes in when you need to write city and even state names. 

In place of city, you will need to mention one of these 3: 

DPO – Diplomatic Post Office

APO – Air Army Post Office

FPO – Fleet Post Office

Along with that, instead of writing one of the 49 states, you need to replace it with: 

AP – Armed Forces Pacific

AA – Armed Forces America

AE – Armed Forces Europe

All of these depend on where your intended recipient is currently stationed, and you need to be absolutely specific with these details because even a slightest mistake will make the letter go right back to you! Not exactly going to be on time for Christmas then for John, right?

The ZIP code remains unchanged, although you also may need to add extra 4 digits too when required.  

How to mention an international address

Are you all flustered about how to write an address on an envelope when you are mailing it to a recipient abroad? What is an acceptable format, how to write address on letter, and so on? Here is some good news for you – they are pretty much the same! Yes! 

However, you need to make a small tweak, as you need to include the country name of the recipient and yourself is a mandate. This is only applicable for letters you are not sending to the military. You need to follow the aforementioned format in case it is intended for anyone working for the US army. 

How to mention a Domestic address

Of all the answers to how to write the mailing address of any kind, this is the most basic one and can work with the regular format of recipients address – consisting of:

Name of the recipient

Address of the recipient

Building number, street name

State and ZIP code

Country

Although it is not compulsory to add the sender's address, it will come in quite handy in case your letter or parcel fails to reach the intended person, and is returned.

If it is not a postcard, you can always use forever stamps, or as per weight of your letter or parcel. 

TRIVIA

Founded in 1775, the second oldest Federal department is the United States Postal Service, USPS in short. Some interesting facts about the US postal service which can awake the curious cat in you:

1. Benjamin Franklin served as the first Post Master General of the United States. 

2. It was legal to mail a baby in the US till 1915, and May Pierstorff was the last human baby mailed at just 53 cents. 

3. Supai, a village in Arizona is the only state in the US today where letters are delivered by a mule.

4. A whopping 7.3 million people are a part of the mailing system, with a yearly turnover of more than $70.6 billion. 

5. Set up in 1816, the post office at New Hampshire is the oldest operating post office in the USA.  

Tips for mentioning address

  1. Legible handwriting or font: Using legible handwriting, which does not pose any requirement of meticulous effort, suffice. However, it is not only the trouble of the USPS officials you are reducing but of yourself as well. If the recipient address is in the slightest bit illegible or does not make sense, it will be returned, and you will need to carry over the process all over again. 
  2. Avoid any extra information: Give your best not to include any other information other than recipient details on your envelope. Excess information can be a problem for the automated processing machines used at the post office. Keep it to the absolute necessities. 
  3. ZIP code measures: If you intend the letter to reach the recipient at the first go, it will serve you dividends if you include the 4 digits area-specific code after the 5 digit ZIP code, with a hyphen in between. For example, 12345 – 6789
  4. Correct abbreviations: If you are using abbreviations, it is almost redundant to say that you need to use correct ones to avoid any future hassles. Some commonly used and correct abbreviations, in case you are unsure: 

Street – ST

E, W, N, S – East, west, north, and south respectively

LN – Lane 

RD – Road

APT – Apartment

  1. Stamps: Stamps are conventionally placed on top right corner of the envelope. While you can use only one stamp for shipping in and around the US, you may need additional stamps, which need to be placed, usually at top right corner for packages weighing more than an ounce. 
  2. Punctuations: Using punctuations correctly is your top priority to avoid any unnecessary mistakes in shipping. Placing a comma after the name, address, the city is ideal to differentiate between each of those. If you are looking for an example to get better clarity, here you are: 

Andy Miles, 615 NE Chester Drive, St. Louis, OA – 32658 - 9854

  1. Conflicting address lines: Although rare, avoid using conflicting address lines, as the one on the bottom line of the address line will only be considered. In case if it is necessary, you may add, but ensure they are written and formatted right. 

For example: 

Thomas Riddle

55 1st Street, 

PO Box: 5055

Carson City 85125

USA

  1. Use a penned/composed address details: Using a pen or printed address line is always beneficial. Not only does it not rub off in transit, but it also is easily visible, and if any mistakes are there, you will be immediately informed, and you can make the necessary changes. 
  2. Add sender's address: It is always a good option to write the return address on the envelope in case it does not reach its intended recipient. Although it is not mandatory, except in some official mails and parcels, it will come in handy if in case it does not reach the recipient. 
  3. Alignment: Always align the sender's address on top left side of envelope, while the recipient's address will be more towards center of your envelope.
  4. Forever stamps: Remember to get forever stamps, as they are always a cheaper option for the long run. Also, do not spend these on postcards, as the stamps on postcards are cheaper than the forever stamps. 
  5. Abroad difference: Always mention the country you are sending it to if the person is not residing in the United States. Mentioning it below ZIP code is a mandate for the recipient's address. Missing country name can result in a long transit process. 

Examples of showing address

All said and done, if you are looking for any example of types of addresses and you are unsure about how to write address on mails of various kinds, fret no more!  Take a look at our all-encompassing compilation.

  • Regular address

An example of a regular address is shown below: 

Sam Jones

221 Rhine Boulevard, 

A City, Florida – 32014 - 5878

  • Business address

In case you are searching how write address on mail intended for business purposes, here you go: 

Gregory L. Luton, CEO

Gaming Inc.

3113 Doctors Drive

Los Angeles

90017 - 2589

  • Military address

Military addresses are, in reality, tricky to write unless you do have necessary details as per exact requirements. These entail:

SGT. Katharine R Berthold

3251 E 2nd Street,

FPO, AP 25687 - 9865

  • International address

Although protocols will differ as per country, this is an example of international address format used in Germany and other parts of Europe: 

Anne D. Fuchs

Nuernbergerstrasse 15

Barßel

Niedersachsen

26676

  • Domestic address

Annika M Ramos

2305 Oak Street

New York 

13420 – 2589

These are the fundamentals and intricacies of writing addresses on postal mails and parcels. Although not many still use this form of communication, it is an essential knowledge which you want to keep with yourself, be it for personal purpose or for official use. 

This guide does a comprehensive coverage on the nuances of how to write mail addresses, and in case you are unable to remember all the long details, remember the tips, and you are never going to return to the post office to resolve issues like Ron!

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