What is the correct format for a mailing address?
Envelopes are often mailed out by businesses as well as individuals. Whether it's a simple business card or something more complex like a birthday greeting card, there can be many variations of how one might address a piece of correspondence. And while most envelopes will have some sort of return postage information on them -- either instructions from the sender about where they'll go after being opened or their own barcode for easy scanning at the post office -- they're also important in that they provide the recipient with the exact location of who sent what. Properly addressing an envelope or package ensures that your mail gets to its destination without any errors. This article explains the basic rules of proper mailing address formatting.
The first thing you need to decide when writing a letter or other form of communication is whether you want to use a full postal service ZIP (zip+4) number or just the five-digit zip code. You may already be familiar with a six-character delivery point abbreviated Postal Service Code (PSC), which was created by the USPS to help consumers find local offices. The PSC consists of two numbers representing the Census Bureau designator followed by four digits. For example, New York City has NY1-117 because "New York" comes before the 117th largest Census bureau division. In general, if you're not sure about getting a full ZIP code or aren't comfortable typing long strings of characters into your computer, stick with the standard 5 digit ZIP codes. However, if you live somewhere like San Francisco or Seattle, where every neighborhood can vary greatly in size, then it would make sense to get a full ZIP code for those areas so that your mail doesn't end up going through all sorts of different neighborhoods. If you still prefer to write down your entire street address rather than rely on a computerized system, consider giving each house a unique ID like a home phone number instead.
Once you've decided between a five- or nine-digit ZIP code, the next question becomes how much space you want to devote to the address itself. Most people will opt for a short but sweet approach, probably no longer than three lines. A good rule of thumb is to keep this part of the address as small as possible. It helps to think of a real estate sign. Make room for the street number, the apartment number and the suite number, but leave a little extra area above the mailbox for the person opening the door to grab mail. Keep in mind that if multiple suites share the same floor, only enough room needs to be provided for each individual unit. Also, if you plan to send a lot of mail to one particular place, such as a company headquarters, remember that you can always call ahead to see if they require special care. Don't forget to include the complete street address, even though it may seem unnecessary. After all, when checking a box or dropping stuff off, the driver won't look too closely at the rest of the address anyway. Finally, bear in mind that although U.S. Mail allows for additional words beyond street address, these shouldn't really take away from the main focus of the message.
What is the correct way to address a letter?
When it comes time to actually fill in the blanks, there are several things we recommend keeping in mind. First, try to avoid adding punctuation marks unless absolutely necessary. While punctuation does add clarity, it tends to slow down the speed at which the machine reads your address. Second, be careful not to overuse symbols. Although the symbol "$," used to represent money, looks fairly innocuous, it could potentially cause problems if it appears too frequently throughout the address. Likewise, the hyphen -is usually fine since it falls within the acceptable range of ASCII characters. But watch out for excessive dashes (-). These tend to confuse the optical character recognition software (OCR) that scans printed documents for sorting purposes. Third, pay attention to capitalization. Since OCR programs read text differently depending upon whether it's uppercase or lowercase, making certain sections of the address entirely capitalized makes the program work harder and slows processing times. Fourth, remember to capitalize proper nouns. These refer to specific locations or people, such as "the White House." Capitalizing the word lets the scanner recognize it as distinct from common words. Fifth, if you're sending a letter addressed to a person, organization or entity, put his or her title last. Doing otherwise could result in confusion during printing, especially if the document contains both upper and lower case letters. Sixth, make sure to check yourself for typos. No matter how hard you proofread, mistakes happen, and having a poorly spelled address can lead to delays and lost packages. Lastly, remember that the United States uses the ISO 3166-1 alpha numeric country designation system. Although it isn't widely known among Americans, the international community recognizes exactly what your national identifier means. Be aware that this system includes countries, regions and subnational entities, whereas the ZIP code system applies solely to states. As stated earlier, when labeling boxes or shipping items overseas, it's recommended that you contact customs prior to shipment to verify compliance.
What is the right way to address a letter?
As mentioned previously, the key components of the letter are the sender's address and the recipient's address. There are basically two ways of organizing this information, either line per line or paragraph per paragraph. Line per line means placing the name of the sender below the receiver's address. Paragraph per paragraph refers to putting the sender's address on top of the recipient's address. Generally speaking, however, whichever method works best for you is perfectly alright. Just keep in mind that whatever organizational style you choose, it must match the layout of the actual document. So, if you're working on a single sheet of paper, lining up names under recipients' addresses is ideal. On the flip side, if you have a large spreadsheet containing hundreds of names and addresses, starting at the bottom of the list and working towards the top would allow for better legibility. When in doubt, ask whoever wrote the original copy. Often times, the receiving party will appreciate knowing why you chose to organize the addresses in one fashion or another.
If you're looking to change your current address, the simplest way is to purchase new stationary and insert the new information directly onto old forms. If you'd rather start fresh, pick up blank pieces of paper and pens. Once again, you'll want to follow guidelines discussed previously regarding the amount of information included in the address section. Try to keep paragraphs short and paragraphs separated by spaces. With regard to organization, we suggest following the same principles outlined previously. That said, please note that you cannot simply print out a new address and paste it onto an existing letter, nor can you cut and paste the contents of an address label onto a new envelope, assuming you're doing so manually. Depending upon your printer settings, you may run into difficulties trying to achieve this task. Instead, create a clean duplicate of a page, preferably double sided, and then switch everything around. Or, if you feel that you're likely to encounter similar issues, buy copies of the labels and/or cover sheets separately.
It's also worth noting that sometimes it's easier to draw your address on graph paper. By drawing straight lines across the grid, it's much simpler to determine where to place names and numbers. Another option is to use colored dots to designate various parts of the address. Using colors can also help readers scan documents faster. Of course, if you're using a color copier, you'll need to consult manufacturer specs beforehand to learn about specifics pertaining to toner density and resolution capabilities. Otherwise, black ink should suffice.
Lastly, if you have difficulty deciphering your handwriting, consider hiring a professional typist. Typists typically charge anywhere from $10-$20 per hour according to skill level, but it's definitely cheaper than the alternative.
How do you address a letter to someone you don't know?
Letters written to non-recipients generally fall into one of two categories: addressed personal correspondence or commercial correspondence. Personal correspondents include friends, family members, clients, vendors, etc., and are usually concerned with basic greetings and inquiries. Commercial correspondents include anyone who receives bills or statements from companies or government agencies. Typically, letters directed toward non-recipients should contain adequate identifying information, such as your full legal name, address, telephone number(s) and e-mail address. Such details are essential to prevent misdirected deliveries. Unless specifically requested, never include your social security number or bank account information.
You've just finished writing up your grocery list and now it's time to get one of those envelopes from the post office so that you can drop off your items at the store on your way home. But what exactly goes into making sure your package gets delivered to its destination? How do you put together the right delivery address? And how does this differ from sending out a physical letter? Let's take a look.
The first thing we need to consider is who needs to receive the letter -- specifically, their gender. So let's say you're trying to send something to a female relative living in another town (or country). If she doesn't live in the same house as you do, then where would be best to direct the package? Should you use her full name, followed by "her room"? Or perhaps you could try putting down both her last name and the apartment number instead. In any case, there are some rules about addressing men versus women in general terms. We'll get to them later. First, here are some more specific guidelines for dropping off packages and other things via postal service.
When you go through the steps required to fill out a delivery slip, you will notice that there are different boxes for each section of the address: Name, Street Address, City/Town, State/Province and Zip Code. The difference between these two sections depends upon whether you are sending a letter or a package. For letters, you only have to include the street address but may choose to add additional information such as a P.O. Box number, suite number, etc., depending upon the situation. With a package, however, everything has to stay within the confines of the box provided.
Letters also require a signature whereas packages typically don't because they aren't going back to you. Therefore, if you want to sign for the item you sent, you must complete the return portion of the delivery form. Once again, though, there are certain situations where you might still wish to sign for an item even after taking it to the mailbox. Read ahead to find out which ones apply to you.
How do you start a letter when you don't know the person?
How do you address someone in a letter without saying dear?
How should you address a letter to a person if you do not know his or her gender?
How do you write Mr and Ms in a letter?
How do you start a letter when you don't know the person?
If you plan on delivering a personal letter to someone you don't already know, you can begin the correspondence by simply filling out the rest of the delivery address completely except for the name field. When prompted, enter whatever title works best for that particular individual. This includes titles like Miss(es), Dr, Sr, II, III, Hon, Rev, Capt, Lt Col, etc. Then continue typing until instructed otherwise. You won't actually end up having to address anyone unless you decide to switch over to regular handwriting once you see that the computer recognizes the text as belonging to a real person rather than just random characters.
Here's a common question people ask us: What happens if I'm handing a letter over to someone whose name isn't listed on my driver's license? Since names vary greatly from culture to culture, we suggest doing some research online before heading out. If you've found nothing helpful on Google, call up your local library, church or government offices to see if there's anything available. Here's another suggestion: Have a friend help you make contact with someone who lives abroad. Most countries allow free distribution of materials, especially religious literature. Another option would be to visit your local U.S. consulate, but remember that international postage rates are much higher than domestic ones and that most consulates charge a fee for processing letters and documents.
In addition to letting you know how many pages your letter should contain, the Postal Service website states that no special symbols (e.g., hyphens) or punctuation marks should appear at the beginning of a new paragraph. However, commas work fine. While it seems logical that you shouldn't bother adding exclamation points or questions, technically speaking they're all perfectly acceptable since they fall under the category of italics. That said, you shouldn't capitalize words either. It makes sense, considering that proper nouns like cities, states and companies are written in capitals.
Now that we understand how to start a letter based on someone else's name, let's move onto the next topic: adoring our beloved pet dogs, cats and fish.
One potential pitfall into which some people often stumble is accidentally listing the wrong person's address on their outgoing envelope. Be careful! If you mistakenly wrote the wrong person’s address on the letter itself, you can always fix the problem yourself by hand. Just turn the paper around and look at the address upside-down. If you see numbers, then you've got it backward.
How do you address someone in a letter without saying dear?
Most of the tips we discussed earlier regarding starting letters come into play when you're dealing with people whom you don't yet know well enough to address directly. As an example, when it comes to family members, friends' parents, neighbors and colleagues, you usually don't feel comfortable calling them by their given name. Instead, you'd probably prefer to stick with the formal version.
For instance, if you were to give a gift to your cousin John's wife Susan, you wouldn't necessarily think to refer to them as "Mrs." Rather, you'd likely call her Mary. Likewise, if you wanted to reach out to a colleague named Joe on behalf of your boss Frank, you wouldn't expect him to respond kindly to your email, phone call or handwritten note addressed to Dear Sir. Instead, he'd probably appreciate being called by his nickname, JT.
But what happens if you don't know the appropriate term to use? One solution is to consult a dictionary. There are several publications that offer lists of informal salutations. Some examples include Hi!, Hello! and Greetings!.
Another tip: Don't forget to greet your recipients personally. Unless you're exchanging business cards beforehand, chances are good that the majority of the folks receiving your missives haven't seen your face recently. Take a moment to smile and wave while passing them along. They'll love the gesture.
As far as writing down unfamiliar relatives, acquaintances and peers by their proper title, etiquette experts advise against it. Doing so implies superiority ("I thought you were worth less than that!"); it also suggests that you think highly of the receiver, which isn't fair. On top of that, it gives people permission to treat you disrespectfully ("Why did you leave me hanging?"). Finally, it causes confusion. To avoid unnecessary conflict, try referring to everyone by their last name, regardless of position.
We mentioned earlier that you shouldn't capitalize words. Why is that? It's true that the English language contains plenty of instances where you may opt to capitalize a word. After all, it's entirely possible that you believe that the phrase "the dog ate my homework" belongs in quotation marks, even though it wasn't spoken aloud. But generally speaking, it's better to keep caps off.
It's easy to assume that male vs. female applies universally throughout society. But for some reason, people seem to think that women are supposed to put periods after their own names. Male readers may chuckle, but females tend to frown. Men and women alike really don't care for this trend. According to sources cited by eGrammaticalCorrectness.com, there are three main reasons why it's considered incorrect: 1.) It signifies ownership 2.) It creates ambiguity 3.) It wastes space.
A few years ago, writer William Safire penned an editorial in the New York Times entitled "Please Stop Writing 'Dear SIR.'" He argued that it was antiquated and sexist. "Mr," "Ms" and "Dr" had been established long before the 19th century. No one uses "Sir" anymore. Besides, weren't ladies referred to as Madam anyway?
Of course, this begs the age-old question: Who decides which gender takes precedence? Is it left up to the reader to figure out or is there some sort of standard protocol? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Although it varies from place to place, according to the Associated Press Style Guide, the following hierarchy exists among males ages 18 to 99: Mr., Captain, Major, General, Admiral, Air Chief Marshal, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, Navy Commander, Army Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force Lieuenant Colonel, Coast Guard Ensign, Master Sergeant, Warrant Officer Class Two, Command Sergeant Major, Brigadier General, Field Grade Crossing over Senior Unranked Officers, Junior Unranked Officers Below Crossed Over Generals, Subalterns, Corporal, Private First Class, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant, Specialist, Gunnery Sergeant, Master Sergeant, Warrant Officer Candidate. Women ages 18 to 99 follow basically the same hierarchy, only substituting Mlle for Womens prefixes.
You've probably already heard that there are proper ways of writing down a person's full name according to different countries' standards. You may also know how to correctly write an email address. But did you ever wonder what kind of formatting goes into printing out a physical mailing address -- like when sending something in the post, or giving directions to someone by phone? The answer is simple: An accurate postal address has certain rules, but those rules can get complicated quickly if you're not familiar with them. Here we'll look at some basic guidelines for addressing envelopes, packages, and even letters that will help make sure your correspondence gets where it needs to go.
First things first: What exactly makes up a valid residential address? According to Canada Post (the country-specific arm of the U.S. Postal Service), a home must meet several criteria before it qualifies as a "valid residence". Basically, it has to include all four elements listed below.
The first element is the house number itself. To qualify as a house number, the digits need to follow specific patterns depending on whether they represent the floor number or part of the building number. In most cases, though, the numbers simply stand alone without any other context clues. If this sounds confusing, don't worry! We'll talk more about these two types of numbers later. For now, just remember that the area codes and local calls provided next usually come after the house number. And always use abbreviations such as St., Ave., etc., rather than their full forms Street, Avenue, etc. When listing multiple floors, only use one abbreviation per floor. A floor plan showing every single room would take too much space.
Next comes the street name. This is pretty straightforward: It consists of either a complete street name followed by a directional suffix ("avenue N") or just the direction followed by the whole road ("north avenue"). Again, however, the street name doesn't necessarily end with a house number; it could precede it or appear elsewhere on the line. Also, many streets have both formal and informal versions, so avoid confusion by making sure you use whichever version is appropriate. For instance, while Queens Boulevard can refer to both Long Island City and Jamaica, Queens, the latter isn't incorrect, since it's considered an informal alternative spelling. Other areas often referred to informally include avenues, parks, roads, creeks, bridges, hills and islands.
Now let's move onto the third criterion: apartment numbers. These vary slightly from place to place, but generally speaking they consist of three parts: the floor number, which shows the actual door within the unit (typically 1st through 9th); the unit number, which identifies each individual flat within the building; and a separate number identifying the particular wing, section, suite or unit inside the building. Some people try to combine these last two together, but experts agree that doing so confuses residents and visitors alike [sources: Humbert]. Regardless of what style you prefer, keep in mind that the best way to identify units is via the numbering system used by the property management company that owns the complex. So if you see 1234 Main Street instead of Apartment 4B, then you're looking at the wrong location. Don't forget that buildings with no signage might contain suites numbered differently in each office, so double check to confirm your destination before leaving the house.
Finally, there's the issue of house numbers themselves. As mentioned earlier, Canadian residences require additional information beyond the standard house number because they aren't actually houses. They must indicate the exact location of the building entryway, otherwise known as the main entrance. For example, the following lines provide enough information to find the right entrance:
Main Door #1, 2nd Floor
Second Floor Entrance #2
Third Floor North Entry #3
As far as American homes go, the general rule is similar. Unless otherwise indicated, the house number represents the closest accessible entrance to the left side of the driveway. However, the precise placement varies between communities, so once again consult your local postal service website for specifics.
But wait, there's still more! There are special circumstances under which you'd want to omit certain elements. Later, we'll discuss why you shouldn't leave off the final piece of info in a typical residential address. First, let's cover the basics.
How should Mr and Mrs be written?
It depends on who lives at the given address. Generally, married couples are addressed separately unless they live together, in which case they're treated as a couple. Otherwise, it's common courtesy to differentiate individuals based on gender, especially if there are children living at the residence. Single men tend to receive a male pronoun, but women typically retain female pronouns regardless of marital status. That said, if a man and woman share the same surname, it's acceptable for both to be addressed as Ms.; it really boils down to personal preference. Just think of it as another opportunity to show appreciation for the hard work done by maid services around the world.
If you're hosting guests over for dinner and expect everyone to sleep overnight, be aware that guest rooms don't count toward occupancy limits. Therefore, if you have five bedrooms plus a den, but only four total occupants, the extra bedroom won't affect your postage rates. On the other hand, if you're renting out the entire top floor of your home, the second story counts towards your overall limit. Finally, bear in mind that multiunit dwellings aren't affected by occupancy restrictions.
How do you write Mr and Mrs with first names?
This is easy: Simply add the family member's name to the front of the address. Although it's fine to use initials here, it's important to note that it's not customary practice in America. Instead, the preferred convention is to use the full title. After all, wouldn't you feel awkward referring to your boss as Mr. Jones if he went by John?
For unmarried adults, it's common etiquette to list their own names first. For example, Eric Smith 12345 Main Street, Unit 3A. Of course, if you're hosting guests at your home, you can call them whatever you wish, but this is the norm for domestic workers. Likewise, if you happen to visit a friend's home, it's polite to introduce yourself by name immediately upon arrival.
Some folks prefer to start their names with the phrase Your Name(Mr./Mrs.),but this is mostly reserved for older generations. Modern society tends to view younger people as independent, capable entities who don't need guidance from parents anymore.
In addition, you should consider your audience when deciding what form to choose. Most Americans will likely opt for the traditional method, whereas others might appreciate seeing first names included. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to mix it up. Below I've highlighted a few of my favorite unconventional approaches.
Dear Mr/Ms Lastname,
To Whom It May Concern
And finally, if you have a long distance relationship with somebody, you might occasionally send handwritten notes expressing gratitude during holiday celebrations. Before you begin typing away, understand that the vast majority of postal facilities accept regular letters printed on stationary. However, if you insist on handwriting, you should print everything neatly and properly. No illegible scribbles allowed.
Do you have to put Mr or Mrs on a letter?
Technically, yes. Even if you were going to send it to your mother, she wouldn't recognize her son's signature if he signed it himself. By law, you must include the occupant's full legal name on all official documents. If you're unsure what his preferences are, ask him directly. He's the one getting hit with higher postage fees anyway.
While you may never encounter problems shipping anything overseas, you can run into trouble domestically. For starters, nobody wants to receive junk mail. Secondly, if you don't include the occupant's real name, then whoever receives your package will have to track down the owner by searching online databases containing partial address data. Thirdly, if you fail to comply with the laws regarding occupancy levels, then you risk being slapped with a housing discrimination complaint. Fourthly... well, fourthly seems less relevant. Bottom line: It's better to err on the side of caution than to risk losing money due to careless mistakes.