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Proper Addressing

Proper envelope addressing is more technical than you think!

Just because your mail makes it to the recipient doesn’t mean that you addressed it correctly. Postal carriers are pretty good at getting the mail where it belongs even though most of us don’t follow all the rules for addressing our envelopes. I even find myself guilty of a couple of these mistakes.

You should learn the proper method of addressing envelopes so that you look professional to your business customers and contacts. Be sure to include any necessary titles especially for politicians, doctors, lawyers, professors, military personnel, and others who have earned their title of respect.

The best source of information for correct addressing comes from the United States Postal Service. The majority of the information in this article comes from their guidelines. You can find specific information on their website by looking at the USPS Quick Service Guide 602 “Basic Standards for All Mailing Services”.

The delivery address is the most important information on your mail piece. Use the following format for your delivery addresses:

Name or attention line:




Delivery address:


City, State, ZIP Code:



Automated mail processing machines read addresses on mail pieces from the bottom up and will first look for a city, state, and ZIP Code and then up a line for a delivery address. If the machines can’t find either line, then your mail piece could be delayed or misrouted. Any information below the delivery address line (a logo, a slogan, or an attention line) could confuse the machines and misdirect your mail.

Recommended USPS Addressing Guidelines

  • Always put the address and the postage on the same side of your mail piece.
  • On a letter, the address should be parallel to the longest side.
  • All capital letters.
  • No punctuation.
  • At least 10-point type.
  • One space between city and state.
  • Two spaces between state and ZIP Code.
  • Simple type fonts.
  • Left justified.
  • Black ink on white or light paper.
  • No reverse type (white printing on a black background).
  • If your address appears inside a window, make sure there is at least 1/8-inch clearance around the address. Sometimes parts of the address slip out of view behind the window and mail processing machines can’t read the address.
  • If you are using address labels, make sure you don’t cut off any important information. Also make sure your labels are on straight. Mail processing machines have trouble reading crooked or slanted information.

Additional Ideas for Address Format

* Never put the attention line below the city and state or in the bottom corner of the envelope. It should be on the top line.
* A suite or apartment number should be on the same line as the street address. If it won’t fit, put it on the line above the address, not below it.
* North, South, East, and West are called directionals and it is important that you include them in your address if they exist. A missing or a bad directional can cause mismatch problems and prevent your mail from being delivered.
* Sometimes it is not important that your mail piece reaches a specific customer, just that it reaches an address. One way to do this is to use a generic title such as “Postal Customer” or “Occupant” or “Resident” rather than a name. You still need to use the complete address.
* Fancy script type fonts such as those used on wedding invitations do not read well on mail processing equipment and may slow down your mail.