When you address an envelope, using ATTN for "Attention" is optional, and it doesn't provide any special examination or treatment by the U. S. Postal Service. If you decide to add ATTN to your address, however, be sure to put it in the recommended USPS attention line. Hint: It's not where you might think it is.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you're using ATTN on an envelope, put it on the first line of the address in front of the individual's name, on the line above the company name. Don't include any punctuation.
Position ATTN Correctly in an Address
If you do decide to add the word "Attention" or the acronym for it, ATTN, when addressing a letter to an individual at a business, the USPS guidelines for addressing envelopes recommend putting it in the first line of the address, which the USPS calls the attention line or recipient line. An example address with an attention line and address lines that are formatted as recommended by the USPS is:
ATTN MS SUSAN BLAKE
VERY LARGE COMPANY
678 COMPANY DRIVE
PITTSBURGH PA 15217-1124
The same address without ATTN would correctly show only MS SUSAN BLAKE on the USPS attention line. Many people mistakenly place the ATTN at the bottom left of the envelope, presumably to draw additional notice to it. That may have worked when humans handled all mail before addresses were read by machinery, but today's multiline optical-character readers (MLOCRs) at the USPS do not recognize a line in that position.
Follow Standards to Save Money and Time
The USPS worked with business groups to arrive at standard abbreviations and ways of addressing envelopes that are universally understood and easily read by MLOCRs. The goal is to increase efficiency and accuracy in mail delivery. Both The USPS and businesses save money if mail does not have to be studied by human eyes or handled multiple times.
Additionally, certain practices save businesses money in mailings. For example, using Zip+4, the zip code plus the four-digit assigned code, produces a barcode that, when used, provides a discount to the mailer. The USPS has found that most businesses do not take advantage of such discounts because their mailings do not follow the recommended standards. These standards are only guidelines, not mandates, so mailers are not required to use them.
An exception is that MLOCRs can only read a maximum of 40 characters and eight words per line. Exceed either one, and the MLOCR ignores the line altogether.
Apply Common Standards to Increase Accuracy
Using standard abbreviations and practices for business mailings — many of which apply to residential mailings also — increases prompt and accurate delivery. The preferred address format eliminates all punctuation except for the hyphen in zip+4. That means no colon after ATTN.
The preferred way to write addresses is to use all caps throughout. It is fine to spell out the address completely, but if you're going to abbreviate, use these standard abbreviations:
- Two-letter state abbreviations: PA instead of Penn.
- Directions: N, S, E, W, NE, SW
- Roads: ST, DR, LN, AVE
- Suite/Apartment: STE/APT
- PO BOX 34
Do you receive duplicate mailings from some companies? To keep this from occurring, make sure your business uses the exact same address in all its mailings. Using alternate versions of your address — even those that differ by a single letter — can result in different addresses on mailing lists and subsequent duplicates of mailings. It's not so bad when the duplicate is another discount code, but when you end up with several accounts and are billed twice for membership fees or receive multiple fundraising pleas, it can be annoying as well as confusing.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.