What is the format for mailing a letter?
In this article we'll show you how to mail letters using all of your choices -- US Mail, FedEx, UPS, private delivery services like Priority Mail Express, and even international postal options such as Global Post (formerly known as POBox) International. We'll also explain what it means when something arrives undeliverable and help you locate where to return that piece if needed. If you're sending small packages by mail, check out How To Pack A Suitcase And What You Can Send Internationally For Free On Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Platform for some helpful tips about packing light.
We've divided our instructions into three sections: First up are USPS basics, including information on how to buy postage, apply for a permit to mail, choose an envelope, write addresses, and find drop-off locations. Next, we'll cover other common methods of personal correspondence delivery. Finally, we'll look at some important details about returning items via mail.
Let's get started!
How do you address an envelope to two husbands?
First things first, let's talk about addressing envelopes. Most people use their street name followed by their last initial. If one husband has more than one home, simply add his middle initial after each address. Or, if they have different names altogether, don't worry so much about being formal. Just make sure both spouses' names appear somewhere on the envelope. Some experts recommend listing them together with no space between their names, while others suggest putting their names and address separated by commas. There's really nothing wrong with either way. It just depends on who you ask.
If you prefer not to include your own address on an outgoing package, consider getting a PO Box number instead. The United States Postal Service offers free boxes called Processing Centers around the country, which allow businesses, individuals, and organizations to receive shipments there rather than delivering them directly to homes and offices. They can be located online through USPS's website or by calling 1-800-275-8777. Check out these links for additional information about PO boxes: http://www.usps.com/postoffice/boxes/index_html [http://www.usps.com/postoffice/custhelp/envelope/box_locator] and http://www.pointernetservices.gov/.
Which address goes first on an envelope?
The order in which you list the addresses on an envelope doesn't matter too much. In fact, most people will probably want to go alphabetically — starting with the person's name closest to the top left corner of the envelope — unless they know exactly why they need to place certain pieces of information before another type of contact info. But here's a tip: When placing phone numbers on the outside of an envelope, start with mobile phones then land lines. This is because in many cases, cell phone companies can deliver calls faster than traditional telephone providers can, making them ideal for medical emergencies. Also, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), "You should give emergency contacts first." Here are a few examples of how to arrange the various types of contact info on an envelope.
Landline Phones Mobile Phones
Emergency Contacts Emergency Medical Contact Doctor Other Healthcare Practitioner Dentist Veterinarian Family Member Friend Neighbor Relative Business Partner Insurance Company Auto Repair Shop Pharmacy Retail Store Supermarket Grocery Delivery Services Name Last Initial Street Address Phone Number Cell Phone Number Home Page Email Address Work Page Fax Number Driver License No. Social Security No. Birth Certificate Date Of Death Relationship With Spouse Relationship With Child
Now that you understand what kind of envelope to pick based on the item(s) you plan to enclose inside, let's move forward with steps involved in actually mailing those items.
How do you properly address an envelope?
When addressing a letter or card, always remember to keep everything grammatically correct and spell correctly. Use proper punctuation, capitalization, and spelling whenever possible. Be aware of any special words, phrases, abbreviations, or acronyms that could confuse the reader. Don't forget to sign the letter or card! Add your signature right below the printed text. Then finish off the addressed envelope with the recipient's full name, title, company, city, state, zip code, and date. After completing these final steps, ensure that the seal is unbroken and your stamp hasn't been canceled. Then take your stamped envelope, insert its contents, and affix the appropriate postage label onto it. Once complete, carefully place the sealed envelope in the mailbox and wait patiently until the receiver opens it.
There are several reasons why an item may arrive back in your hands undelivered. Read on for ways to handle these situations.
Which address do you put first on a letter?
It might seem logical to print the sender's address at the very beginning of a letter, but some say that doing so would cause confusion. According to the National Council Handwriting Study Group, the best practice for printing the address is to put it at the end of the sentence containing the person's name. That way, the address comes across as part of the salutation. However, some argue that this isn't necessary since the address itself usually only takes up a single line anyway.
Sometimes, depending upon the reason for the error, the postal service won't accept your letter or package. Sometimes, it happens due to an incorrect ZIP Code, while sometimes it occurs because there was insufficient postage on the original shipment. Either way, if you think there was a mistake made regarding your letter or parcel, you must file a claim form within 90 days of receiving it. One option is to call your local office, and someone will walk you step-by-step through filing a claim. Another option involves contacting the national toll-free customer support hotline at 1-888-925-4555. Regardless of whether or not you filed a claim, you still might be able to ship your item again under separate shipping labels, provided that it meets the guidelines set forth by the processing center handling your request. The following are the general guidelines used for Undelivered Package Reporting procedures:
Mail received by hand or delivered to third parties without postage.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of invalid destination address.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of incorrect postage amount paid.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of missing cancellation fee payment required within 48 hours.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of insufficient funds to pay postage charges.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of nonpayment of business reply coupons issued by authorized agency.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of failure to provide required identification documents.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of illegible handwriting.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of lack of adequate description of goods purchased.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of incomplete or incorrectly completed pre-sortation report.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of improper bar coding.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of defective merchandise shipped.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of missing or damaged freight bill.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of misdirected shipment.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of lost or stolen merchandise.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of tampering or substitution of products.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of product damage caused during transit.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of unsanitary conditions found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of hazardous materials discovered in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of dangerous substances found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of fire hazard found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of electrical shock hazards found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of flood hazard found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of earthquake activity found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender or undeliverable because of hurricane activity found in enclosed premises.
Mail returned to sender because of incorrect weight calculation.
Mail returned to sender because of bad debt collection attempt.
Mail returned to sender because of illegal importation activities.
Mail returned to sender because of counterfeit trademark violation.
Mail returned to sender because of false advertising violation.
Mail returned to sender because of unauthorized sale of copyrighted material.
Mail returned to sender because of fraudulent billing practices.
Mail returned to sender because of deceptive trade practices.
Mail refused because of excessive content deemed objectionable.
Mail refused because of inadequate postage.
Mail refused because of irregularity in shape or size.
Mail refused because of foreign language difficulties.
Mail refused because of noncompliance with internal regulations.
Mail refused because of threats against life or property.
Mail refused because of suspicious circumstances surrounding attempted receipt.
Mail refused because of suspected fraud.
Mail refused because of security threat.
Mail refused because of physical defects or inadequacies.
We all know that when we want to mail something -- whether it's a package or a piece of paper -- we need to find out where our destination can be found on a map first. But what about letters? In this article, we'll show you just how easy it is to figure out your next trip to the mailbox with USPS' helpful guides. We will also explore what is considered "proper" addressing so that no one gets confused while trying to decipher where your letter needs to go.
Letters are often mailed using envelopes, which makes them much easier to handle than if they were sent unaddressed. Envelope addresses have two things going for them -- convenience and clarity. If your letter doesn't reach its intended recipient because someone misread the return address, then at least there is some sort of closure to the situation. And if you're sending a letter overseas, having multiple languages on the same envelope may make communication between people even less confusing.
But let's start by taking apart the basics of a single-address letter. First off, we should probably talk about addresses. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has standards for everything from putting street numbers on houses to providing zip codes. Before we get too far ahead into the logistics, however, take a look at these basic rules of good postal etiquette:
Always write full names when mailing a letter. This prevents any confusion as to who might receive your message.
If possible, use handwritten signatures instead of printed ones. Handwritten notes mean more than typed ones ever could.
Don't include extra words like 'Dear Sir,' unless necessary. It's better to keep it simple without unnecessary wording.
Do not sign your name below your address line. Do not put anything other than your signature under your own personal information, such as initials.
Address the person correctly! Using incorrect grammar or misspelling their name will likely cause problems down the road. Make sure your spelling is accurate. Also check for punctuation mistakes, especially apostrophes. For example, don't confuse the semicolon with the colon, both of which represent colons on maps. There are many different types of commas within addresses, but only use a comma before a period.
Now that you've got the general guidelines covered, let's move onto the actual mechanics of mailing a letter. Here are the most important points to remember regarding the delivery process:
The easiest way to mail a letter is to purchase postage online through USPS.com. You simply choose the amount you wish to pay for each item, enter your ZIP code, select your state/province, and voila! All of your transactions are handled automatically right from your computer screen.
It is extremely important to note that although you cannot change your addressee once the letter leaves your house, you can certainly alter the contents of the envelope itself. To open up new possibilities, try adding extra space around text boxes on forms, or increase margins on documents.
Once you've filled out the form, place your stamp on top of it and seal it shut. Then, stick the completed document inside the envelope, making sure that it fits perfectly. Take care to align the edge of the flap over the back side of the envelope. Be careful not to bend the gummed part of the flap until you're ready to close it. Once you've done those steps, insert the stamped envelope through the slot at the bottom of the postal scale. The weightier the envelope, the faster it takes to deliver.
After weighing the envelope, wait three minutes and watch closely as the machine prints the date and time on the envelope. As soon as the printing finishes, slide the lever forward toward the left hand door. After another minute or two, walk away slowly while pulling the front door closed behind you. That completes the transaction. Now your letter is officially delivered.
With all of the above knowledge, now comes the fun part: figuring out how to properly address a letter. Let's begin by looking at what is known as the outside envelope.
When mailing an envelope What is the format?
In order to determine where to direct the letter, you must first decide where exactly the letter is headed. Is it addressed specifically to someone named John Smith, or does it apply to anyone living in New York City? Perhaps you'd like to mail a card to several family members, in which case you would need to find out everyone's middle initial. Or maybe you live in Alaska and have never heard of ZIP Codes. Whatever the scenario, the best thing to do is consult a local post office. They should be able to help guide you on how to proceed.
When you're writing your address yourself, always use lowercase characters. Don't worry about capitalization -- USPS uses upper case characters everywhere else on labels and envelopes. However, it's still acceptable to use uppercase for certain abbreviations, such as P.O. Box. When signing your handwriting, though, be aware that you won't see these small differences.
Next up, we'll learn how to properly address an envelope.
What is the proper formatting of an envelope?
The first rule of thumb when creating an envelope is that every number, including streets, must be written out. The second rule is that you shouldn't skip spaces, regardless of what type of numbers they contain. These little details make life easier later on. Finally, if you're planning on using special graphics, such as photographs or artwork, make sure to create a separate label for that image and attach it to the envelope.
Writing out your address is actually pretty straightforward. Just follow these quick tips:
Use a pen whenever possible. Although typing on a keyboard gives the appearance that you're doing nothing wrong, it can lead to errors later on.
Write legibly. Your address isn't supposed to resemble illegible chicken scratch.
Make sure that you leave enough room for error. Even though you wouldn't think twice about leaving a few inches blank on a business card, it's completely unacceptable on an envelope. Leave plenty of space for the postman to fill in his route.
Try to avoid fancy fonts or colors. Keep it simple.
Enclosures are usually inserted into envelopes during production, so you shouldn't need to worry about the size of the opening. However, if you plan to enclose pictures or cards separately, you should measure them carefully beforehand.
Finally, after you've finished crafting your address, you should double-check that it's spelled accurately. Most states require that you verify your address with either a phone call or a visit to your home.
How do you address a letter envelope?
To ensure perfect alignment, you should fold the letter horizontally in half. From here, you should grab the corner on the right side of the page and bring it upward. Next, fold it again. Grab the opposite corner on the left side of the page and pull it downward. Continue folding and tucking these layers together until they meet in the center of the sheet. At this point, you should have created four creases. Use a ruler to divide the folded section into five equal pieces. Carefully unfold the letter and spread each piece evenly across the width of the envelope. Fold them up again and gently push them against the envelope wall. Try to flatten them out as much as possible.
For international correspondence, there are additional considerations to consider. Learn about these unique situations in the next chapter.
A lot goes into delivering a letter successfully. On average, it takes six days for a letter to travel anywhere in the world. Postage rates depend upon distance, volume, and class of service. Letters traveling internationally cost slightly more than domestic orders, since they generally cover greater distances. Since the rate per ounce varies widely based on region, you should contact your local postmaster's station directly to compare prices.
If it's been awhile since your last correspondence course, this one will teach you everything you need to know about sending letters and cards via US Postal Service (U.S.P.) mail. It'll show you what goes into selecting an appropriate stamp and postal fees, where to find drop-box locations, and how to properly address envelopes so that they get delivered correctly. You can even learn how to apply postage directly onto envelopes.
This article covers all of these topics as well as some common questions people often ask when addressing their own mailings. Most importantly, we'll explain why there are different kinds of addresses -- single, double, triple, etc. -- and which ones are most commonly used today.
In addition to showing you how to use the USPS service, our tips also include general etiquette rules. We've included them here because many people have never received formal training in good table manners and don't realize how much more pleasant life would be if everyone followed basic politeness guidelines. For example, it's not considered rude to open someone else's mail before reading it -- but if you're going to look at something without permission, make sure you give appropriate greeting. And please take care not to leave any food crumbs around! That's very inconsiderate.
Let's begin by taking a closer look at the various ways to write out an address.
Single Addresses vs. Double/Triple Addresses
A single street number is written as "123 Main Street." When two numbers follow each other, such as 123 Maple Lane, that's called a double house number. If three numbers come together, like 1234 Cherry Ave., then that's known as a triple house number. The purpose behind having separate categories is simple enough: There may be multiple houses on only a portion of the road. So if those homes were numbered like 1, 2, 3 on top of the hill, 4, 5, 6 down below, confusion could arise. This is where the term "drive" comes into play. A drive is defined as every block between streets beginning with the same number. In this case, the upper end of the drive begins at street No.1, while the lower end starts at the next street over, No.2.
But what happens if there isn't a clear dividing line between street numbers? Then the area must be divided further into sections. These are usually labeled according to whether they contain odd or even numbers, although sometimes they're simply named left side or right side. What determines whether the section contains odd or even numbers depends mostly upon local custom. Some areas divide streets up based on alphabetical order rather than numerical order. But regardless of the system, when a new street opens up, its name takes precedence over older roads' names. Therefore, in cases where no clear boundaries exist, the city government has established clearly marked boundary lines along the street itself. These demarcations are called blocks, and they're generally measured by distance. One block equals 100 feet (about 30 meters).
Now let's move on to the question of how to write down your home address.
Writing Your Address
The easiest way to figure out where you live is to start by listing off your entire street address. However, this doesn't always work for certain cities due to naming conventions. Take New York City, for instance. Instead of giving each building within the neighborhood its own individual designation, the neighborhood is given a collective title. Each street name follows the pattern N-I-D-C-E Avenue, with I being the central avenue through the neighborhood. Once you reach Central Park West, however, things change again. Here, instead of continuing eastward, the numbering switches back to westward starting with 998. As far as the eye can see, nothing seems to follow a regular pattern. At least not until you arrive at the corner of 96th St. and Riverside Dr..
Here you'll notice that the numbers aren't continuous, yet they still fall under a set label. They've just skipped ahead to the next highest number available after 96th. This is because Riverside Drive was originally laid out as part of West 84th Street. Since the numbering didn't continue past 84th, the street actually ends abruptly at 90th. To fix this problem, another street was added between 89th and 90th making it official. With the exception of this small gap, the rest of the numbering falls smoothly into place.
So now you understand why the United States Post Office Department divides addresses into sets of odd and even numbers. But what does this mean for homeowners who want to stick with standard practices? Well, there is good news and bad news. Good news is that once you decide on the correct number range, you're done. Bad news is that if you'd prefer a specific arrangement, you might run into problems. For instance, if you lived near a major highway interchange, perhaps the closest exit had a number ending in 0. Unfortunately, the nearest crosswalk was located farther away. Because of the large size difference between the two numbers, crossing traffic lights couldn't possibly determine which direction you wanted to walk. Of course, the best solution would be to try to persuade the authorities to install a designated crosswalk sign somewhere nearby.
Another scenario involved a family living in a duplex. Their neighbor across the street lived alone in a larger frame house, and he gave his address as 210 Oak Place. Unfortunately, they thought he meant 210 Oak Street, which happened to be five doors down from theirs. Luckily, the UPS man knocked on the door and explained that the actual address was 210 Oak Court. By this time, though, they realized they were missing mail deliveries. Even worse, they found out later that visitors assumed they lived at the wrong address too. Now that would put a damper on anyone's day!
To avoid similar mishaps, you should consider using standardized abbreviated forms whenever possible. The following list offers several examples of popular abbreviations, including the full version:
Street Name Full Version
1265 E. Broad St. East Broad Street
1325 E. First St./Second Floor Elm Street Second Floor
1851 W. 44th St. Western Fourth Street
2368 S. Pine St. South Pine Street
2440 H St./Hwy. 280 Highway 280
2806 S. Kalamazoo Rd. Southwest 27th Road
3615 Paseo de la Reforma North Northwest 39th Street
3735 Chapultapec Hill Blvd. Northeast 38th Street
3909 Beverly Glen Cir. Southeast 40th Street
3969 Wilshire Blvd. West 41st Street
4115 Cielo Vista Terrace Northeast 42nd Street
4214 Laurel Canyon Blvds. Northwest 43rd Street
4321 Mulholland Dr. West 47th Street
4501 Venice Blvd. Southwest 49th Street
4959 Sunset Blvd. Southwest 52nd Street
5103 Hollywood Way Southwest 53rd Street
5322 Santa Monica Blvd. Southwest 54th Street
5430 Colorado Blvd. Southwest 56th Street
5601 La Brea Ave. West 58th Street
5861 Washington Boulevard West 60th Street
You might also choose to write out your address yourself. Make sure you check spelling carefully and watch for typos. Also, remember to think twice before adding punctuation marks. Unless necessary, refrain from inserting anything other than periods, commas, colons, exclamation points, quotation marks, brackets, parentheses, dashes and underscores. After all, doing so makes your message sound less professional.
When addressing a business card, keep in mind that you shouldn't assume that the person receiving your mail knows exactly what kind of company you represent. Be careful not to confuse companies with similar titles. For example, UPS stores are obviously affiliated with the shipping giant, whereas FedEx Stores sell office supplies. Always use clear descriptions such as "postal services," "mailing products," and "business reply stationery" when needed.
Finally, it's important to note that you cannot add extra information beyond your complete address unless requested to do so. Keep this rule in mind when preparing labels for packages, as well as when filling out online bill payment requests.
For additional information on mailing correspondence, visit the links on the next page.