How to Address an Envelope Properly

the proper way to address an envelope

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Sending snail mail requires the simple act of addressing an envelope. In some cases, it's fine to send an email, but there are occasions when you'll want to use an old-fashioned method of communication. Whether you're mailing an invitation, thank you note, letter, holiday card, or business correspondence, you'll need to include some basic information on the envelope to ensure that it reaches its destination promptly.

It's important to put the intended recipient's name and address and the sender's name and address in the correct spots on the envelope. Always double-check these elements to make sure you have the full name and correct address.

Tip

Write or print names and addresses clearly or you will run the risk of having the mail go to the wrong address. Make sure you do the following:

  • Use blue or black ink on white or light paper.
  • Avoid cursive or fancy fonts.
  • Avoid reverse printing on black paper.


How to Address an Envelope: The Basics

Most of the time you can fall back on the general recommended rules of addressing your envelope, whether you are sending a thank you note or letter. Here are the simple steps for addressing an envelope:

  1. Your name and address: Your name and address go in the upper left-hand corner. The top line is your full name, the second line is your street address or post office box number, and the third line is your city, state, and zip code. The state can be written in full or abbreviated.
  2. Recipient's name and address: The recipient's name and address are placed in the center of the envelope. The top line is the recipient's full name, the second line is the recipient's street address, and the third line is the recipient's city, state, and zip code. The state can be written in full or abbreviated.
  3. The stamp: The stamp for a standard 1-ounce letter or card goes on the upper right-hand corner of an envelope. If you have an irregular-shaped, heavy envelope, or an international letter, check with the post office about the type and number of stamps you will need on your correspondence.

Tip

Though it's not always required on casual or non-business pieces of mail, you can add a title to the recipient's full as an additional sign of respect. Typical titles are Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, or Dr. An example of a title would be Mrs. Emma Smith.

Sample Address

Ms. Emma Smith
456 NW Silver Street

Apt. 3N
Seattle, WA 98126

The Proper Way to Address an Envelope

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Addressing a Business Letter

When sending a business letter, you'll need to maintain professional etiquette throughout the entire process. Follow the basic guidelines outlined above and then add a couple more pieces of information.

  1. Place your name and address in the upper left corner of the envelope.
  2. Put the recipient's information in the center of the envelope.
  3. After the recipient's full name and on the same line if possible, add their position, such as "Director of Marketing." If the title does not fit on the same line, place it directly on the line underneath the name.
  4. Underneath the person's name and title, add the full name of the company.
  5. Add the company's street address on the line below the company's name.
  6. Add the company's town, state, and zip code on the line below the street address.
  7. The stamp goes on the upper right corner of the envelope.

Tip

If you're unsure of the recipient's name, you may write "Attn: Director of Marketing," for example, on the first line.

Sample Address

Sydney Johnson, Creative Director
Smith & Co.
800 Ocean Avenue
10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90021

or

Attn: Creative Director
Smith & Co.
800 Ocean Avenue
10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90021

How to Address a Business Envelope

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Addressing Mail to Overseas Military Installations

When you send a letter to a person in the military stationed overseas, use the same general guidelines outlined above with a few additions to the recipient's name and address:

  1. Add the recipient's rank and full name on the first line.
  2. The unit or squadron number should go on the second line.
  3. The third line had three parts to it: The first part includes the designation where the person is stationed, such as APO (Air/Army Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office), or DPO (Diplomatic Post Office), according to where the person is stationed,
  4. The second part of the third line includes the name or abbreviation of the country in caps of where the duty station is located, such as AA (Armed Forces America), AE (Armed Forces Europe), or AP (Armed Forces Pacific).
  5. The third part of the third line includes the full postal zip code, which may or may not include four extra numbers.

Sample Address

SGT Marcus Rosa
Unit 345 Box 21
APO AA 92136

How to Address Overseas Military Mail

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Mailing to Other Countries

The general rules for addressing an envelope for European or other overseas destinations are similar:

  1. Place your name and address on the upper left corner of the envelope and beneath your return address, include "U.S.A." A full name and return address are required on international mail.
  2. In the center of the envelope, add the first line with the recipient's name and title.
  3. Add the second line with the recipient's street address.
  4. Add the third line with the recipient's city, province, and state with the postal code. (Some countries, such as Spain, require the postal code to be placed first.)
  5. The last line includes the name of the recipient's country in English and all caps.

Sample Address

Andrea Jimenez
Carrer de la Pau 15

46001 Valencia (Alicante)
SPAIN 

How to Address International Mail

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol