What Is the Correct Format for Addresses When Mailing in the United States?

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Addressing an envelope correctly is important. An incorrect address format may mean that your mail will be returned to you as undeliverable. It could even get lost. Fortunately, it's easy to address an envelope or package the right way so it reaches its intended destination.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

With some exceptions, such as square or odd-shaped envelopes, mail is sorted electronically. To be machine readable, the addresses of the sender and the recipient must appear legibly, in the order of name / street / city / state / zip code, in the designated area of an envelope or package.

The Sender's Address

The sender's address is placed in the upper left-hand corner of the mail piece. Print or type the address in capital letters that are aligned with the left margin. The correct address order includes lines for your name, business name if applicable, street address or post office box number, city, state and zip code +4 as shown in these examples:

JOHN JONES
101 WALNUT AVE
DENTON TX 78900-0101

SUSAN SMITH
XYZ COMPANY
123 OAK ST
CHICAGO IL 60611-0123

You may use standard abbreviations such as PO (Post Office), AVE (Avenue), ST (Street) or RD (Road). Write the city name in full — for example, write "SAN FRANCISCO" instead of "SF". The exception is a New York City address; you can simply write "NEW YORK" and omit the word "CITY", as it is widely understood. Notice that there are no periods in the abbreviations.

Use the two-letter state abbreviations established by the United States Postal Service. If you're unsure of a state abbreviation, you can look it up on the USPS website. The abbreviations are written in capital letters with no periods. Notice that there is no comma to separate the names of the city and state or the state and zip code.

The Recipient's Address

Imagine a rectangle in the center of your envelope or package. The recipient's address goes in this space. The proper mailing address format is the same as the return address format, with the recipient's name, business name and address printed or typed in capital letters.

If you do not address the mail piece to a specific individual, it is acceptable to address it using a title or department name. You may write "ATTN" for "Attention", but it is not required. Note that the recipient is still the first line in the address. For example:

HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
ACME MANUFACTURING, INC
777 SUNRISE DR
BATON ROUGE LA 70801-0789

ATTN HUMAN RESOURCES DEPT
ACME MANUFACTURING, INC
777 SUNRISE DR
BATON ROUGE LA 70801-0789

Address Format for Mailing Overseas

The format for the sender's address is essentially the same whether mailing domestically or internationally. The only difference is that you will add "USA" underneath the line that has the city, state and zip.

Some countries have address formats, so, if possible, verify the correct format with the recipient before addressing the mail piece. In some cases, the postal code may precede the name of the addressee's city or country. For example, a London address might look like this:

MS. EMMA PEALE
INTERIORS BY EMMA
18 BELLINGHAM RD
LONDON W6K 8HR
GREAT BRITAIN

In the above example, Great Britain, the official country name as used by USPS, is written in full. This is perfectly acceptable, or you can find a country's two-letter abbreviation on the USPS website. Great Britain's abbreviation, GB, is obvious, but some abbreviations are not. For example, SV is the postal abbreviation for El Salvador, and WS is the postal abbreviation for Samoa.

If you write out a country name in full, use the Anglicized version of the name rather than the one used in the country's native language. For example, write "ITALY" instead of "ITALIA" or "NORWAY" instead of "NORGE".

Affixing Correct Postage

Place the stamp in the upper right-hand corner of your envelope. As of January 2020, it costs 55 cents to mail a 1-ounce letter First Class from one U.S. destination to another.

Postal rates vary according to shape, weight and destination of a letter or parcel. Rates also depend on whether you're sending a mail piece First Class or Priority or with special services such as Certified Mail or Signature Confirmation. If in doubt, your local post office can accurately weigh your mail and advise you of costs based on available options.