How to Write a Proper Address

Posted October 11, 2021

With emails and text messaging becoming more accepted in business and formal situations, physical mail or snail mail is less prevalent. However there is still a need for mailing physical parcels, such as save the dates, wedding invitations, and packages with gifts. Properly formatting an address is important in order to ensure the mail is delivered to the right person and not returned to the sender. 

How to Write a Proper Address

This article will explain what an address is, examine the proper formatting and placement for different types mail, provide some additional tips for addressing your letter and give a few examples of properly formatted addresses.

What is an address?

An address is a form of identification for a physical location that provides the information necessary for someone to locate a building, area of land or physical structure. The information in an address includes the country, state, city, street names, political boundaries, building numbers and postal codes. Though an address is used for navigation and other reasons, it is most commonly used to guide mail to the right location and person.

How to write an address on an envelope

Any envelope being sent will need to include the addresses of both the recipient and the sender. The following includes the proper format for these addresses.

The sender's address

In the top left-hand corner of the flat side of the envelope is where the sender's address goes, aligned to the left. Here's what to include:

  1. The sender’s name should be placed on the first line.
  2. When sending from a business address, you would list the company name on the next line.
  3. Under the name and company write out the building number and street name.
  4. The last line should have the city, state and ZIP code or postal code for the address.

The recipient's address

The center of the envelope is where the recipient’s address should be placed, aligned either left or center. Their information the same format as the sender’s address:

  1. The recipient's name is placed on the first line.
  2. The second line includes the building number and street name.
  3. The last line include’s the city, state and ZIP code.

Even though the format of the actual address might look a little different depending on the area or business you are sending to, the placement of both addresses is always the same.

How to address a business letter

When you are mailing something to a company the physical address will look the same as a regular letter but you might want to include some other information to make the address more official and formal. Consider the following:

  1. You may write "Attention:" or "ATTN:" before the recipient's name to make the address appear more official. It is also appropriate to add the individual's prefix before their name, like Dr., Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Additionally, if you know that the person uses a professional distinction or title (such as MBA, PhD, or CEO), add a comma after their last name followed by the designation.
  2. The following line should simply have the name of the company or business.
  3. From there it is the same as all other addresses, you will need to write the building number and street name on the next line.
  4. And the last line of the business address will contain the city, state and ZIP code.

How to format a military address

For military addresses follow the same basic format as regular addresses, and include a few additional distinctions. Follow these steps for writing a military address:

  1. Write out the recipient's full name first, if you would like you may include their rank.
  2. The second line of the address should have the building number and street name.
  3. In place of the name of the city, you will one of the following:
    1. DPO for the Diplomatic Post Office (diplomatic locations).
    2. FPO for the Fleet Post Office (Navy and ships).
    3. APO for the Air/Army Post Office (Air Force or Army).
  4. The name of the state should be replaced with an abbreviation indicating the individual's duty station, these might include the following:
    1. AA for Armed Forces America.
    2. AE for Armed Forces Europe.
    3. AP for Armed Forces Pacific.
  5. The ZIP code follows the same formatting, however the extra four-number code is a requirement for delivery on military addresses.

How to write an international address

The format for international addresses will vary depending on where you are sending your letter to. Be sure to check the formatting for the specific country before mailing out your international parcel. The placement of both the recipient’s address and sender’s address are the same as above, the international address will be the only thing that differs. The following is the format for most European countries: 

  1. Include the recipient's name on the first line.
  2. If applicable, this line would include the name of the house. This is usually only common for rural areas where the name of the estate replaces the name of the street. If an estate name is used and it has a street name then the third line would need the building number and/or the street name.
  3. The next line should list the town or city.
  4. On the following line, write the county name. Not always included for major cities but necessary for more rural areas. The abbreviation for "county" is Co. and should be placed before the name of the county.
  5. The next line should include the postal code for the recipient.
  6. The last line of the address should have the foreign country's name.

Additional tips

Here are some additional tips for writing an address and sending a letter:

Write legibly

If you don’t have access to a label maker or computer to print out your address labels make sure that your writing is legible. Write slowly and clearly so that nothing needs to be crossed out, and if you make a mistake use a new envelope or stick a label over the mistake that clearly covers the wrong address. The Postal Service suggests writing in all capital letters, black ink, and avoiding cursive or fonts that are difficult to read.

Place stamps at top right

Stamps should be placed in the top, right-hand corner of the envelope. Standard letters up to one ounce in weight that are being shipped within the United States need just one stamp. However, additional stamps will be required for letters and packages that weigh more than one ounce or are traveling to an international destination. 

Include only the address info

Only write address information on the front of the envelope, don’t add any additional text or inscriptions above or below the addresses. Postal Services use automated processing machines to scan the envelopes so additional text could delay your letter's delivery if the machine cannot distinguish the address.

Use the full zip code

If you would like to ensure that your letter or packages gets delivered as quickly as possible without delays try including the extra 4 digit zip code alone with the 5 digit more common zip code. The extra 4 numbers go after the 5 digit zip code with a hyphen separating them.

Use the correct abbreviations

You will need to use abbreviations for navigational directions, roadways and unit numbers. For example, you should use:

  • N for North
  • S for South
  • W for West
  • E for East
  • ST for Street
  • BLVD for Boulevard
  • PKWY for Parkway
  • PL for Place (Cul-de-sac) 
  • LN for Lane
  • DR for Drive
  • RD for Road
  • APT for Apartment
  • STE for Suite
  • AVE for Avenue

Use commas where appropriate

I the address for both the sender and recipient you will need commas to separate the Street address from the apartment number and the city from the State abbreviation. See the following examples:

Regular address

This is an example of a regular address:

John Smith

4739 Brookfield LN, APT 4

Louisville, KY 40018-7690

Business address

Here is an example of an address to an individual within a company:

ATTN: Carla Brooks, VP

World Wide Entertainment

661 Broadway Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210-9027

P.O. Box Address

Here's an example of how to format the address to a Post office box:

Polly Honey

PO Box 1778

Anytown, SC 27801

When unsure of the correct format for an address it is appropriate to ask the recipient how to best address their correspondence. Especially if you are sending something internationally, it can’t hurt to get confirmation of the recipient’s address before sending. You can do the same for a business by calling their front desk and asking for their mailing address, since they might have a P.O. Box that receives mail instead. 

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