Addressing an envelope may seem fairly simple, but one overlooked detail can delay or prevent your mail from being delivered correctly. Whether you’re sending a card to a friend, mailing a check from your checking account, or a paper application by mail, knowing how to address an envelope correctly is essential.
This easy step-by-step guide will help you know how to address an envelope and which envelope format to use for different scenarios, whether you’re sending mail to a couple, P.O. Box, or military personnel.
Step-by-step instructions for addressing an envelope
To learn how to label an envelope, you must first have the correct name, address information, and the proper postage. You probably don’t want to start the process at home or the post office only to discover you don’t have what you need. Here are five steps to follow to know how to label an envelope.
1. Confirm the sender’s and recipient’s complete name and address
Check that the sender and recipient’s address contains their complete details, including the following:
- First and last name
- Street address
- Apartment/unit number
- Zip code
Double-check the recipient’s information to ensure the name and mailing address are correct. If you put the wrong address, city, or zip code, the letter could end up somewhere else or get sent back.
2. Place the sender’s information at the top left corner of the envelope
If you are sending the mail yourself, write your details on the envelope correctly in case the package gets returned. Place your or the sender’s information (if you’re sending mail on someone else’s behalf) in the envelope’s top left corner.
Always confirm the full name(s) and address and write legibly in blue or black ink. Avoid cursive or intricate fonts that can make it difficult to make out what the envelope says.
Some envelopes are labeled with a return address section and lines where you can write your name and address. Either way, the placement for the sender’s information is always at the top left corner.
3. Add the recipient’s details at the lower center of the envelope
Next, add the recipient’s name and address information to the bottom center area of the envelope. Ensure that the address is legible and the spelling is correct. Avoid abbreviations, especially when sending formal or business mail.
4. Attach postage to the top right corner
You don’t want to get the mail delivered back to you because there wasn’t enough postage. Check how many stamps you need depending on where you’re sending the envelope from and to.1 You can always call your local post office or stop in and check with the clerk to see what type of postage you’d need.
The postage should be fixed on the upper right side of the envelope. The post office can weigh your envelope before mailing it. To calculate your postage price, the USPS rounds up the package’s weight to the nearest pound or ounce for heavier packages.
The USPS also has a retail postage calculator online calculator to help you estimate how much postage will cost depending on the type of package and the destination.
How to send mail to a military address
Certain addresses have different formats, particularly if you’re sending mail to a military. Military addresses don’t use city and state names the same way as personal or business addresses.
Instead, the city name will be either:
- APO (Air/Army Post Office)
- FPO (Fleet Post Office)
- DPO (Diplomatic Post Office)
For the state, you will need to use one of these options depending on the duty station:
- AA (Armed Forces America)
- AE (Armed Forces Europe)
- AP (Armed Forces Pacific)
You may need to add the four extra digits at the end for the zip code to ensure delivery.2 For example, a military address may be addressed like this:3
SGT. Bill JonesUnit 4567, Box 124APO AE 09350
How to send mail to an international address
For international mail that isn’t military-related, you must add the country to the last line after the recipient’s name, address, and zip code. You should also write the recipient’s full name and address in English. If you need to write it in another language, you can add the English translation after each line.
Some countries may place the zip code before the city, so confirm the address order before adding it to your envelope.4
How to address envelopes for different situations
Addressing envelopes for a specific event may call for a different address. For more formal occasions such as weddings, graduations, or sending condolences, the format used to address your envelope may differ. Here are some examples of what to write on an envelope for these different scenarios:
- Wedding invitations. Wedding invitations are considered formal mail, so you’ll want to use the recipient’s full name and avoid any abbreviations in the address. The recipient’s name should include the names of the people being invited. For example, if it’s for a couple using the same last name, you can address the recipient as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ or ‘Mr. and Mr. Jones’. If the couple does not share the last name, you should write out each other names and titles like ‘Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Anne Roberts’.5
- P.O. Box. You may find yourself sending mail to someone’s P.O. Box. In this case, you will still include their name, city, state, and zip code on the envelope. Instead of the street address, you’ll write ‘P.O. Box’ followed by the correct number.6
- Business. If you’re sending mail to a company, you should include the name of the business and ‘ATTN:’ followed by the recipient’s name and their department in addition to the address details. This can help your mail get to the correct person and place, especially if it’s going to a big company.
- Postcard. You won’t include the sender’s address or the sender’s name on a postcard. You can add a short note and include the recipient’s name and address on the right side of the card and add postage before sending it.
- Family. When addressing mail to a family, you might use the family’s name like ‘The Johnson Family’. Or, you can include the parents’ names with ‘and Family’ added afterward. If you’re sending a formal invitation, be sure to include each family member’s name that is invited on the envelope.
Get your mail to the right place
Knowing how to address an envelope is a useful skill. Depending on the occasion, you may need to include additional information to ensure your mail gets to the right place.
When it comes to receiving important mail on time, like your paycheck, you can set up direct deposit to speed up the process of getting paid. Learn more about how to set up direct deposit.