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Envelopes being put into mailbox

What are the basics for addressing an envelope?

Addressing an envelope can cause some confusion, because there is an order and specific styles to follow depending on where the piece of mail is going. Knowing the basic terminology and where things go on the envelope is critical in making sure that your letter or piece of mail is delivered to the correct person and address. Here are some of the basic pieces of information you should know when addressing an envelope:

  • Include a return address: A return address goes on the top left corner of the envelope. It is the place of business or the residential address of the sender and is where the envelope should be returned to if it cannot be mailed to the desired location. The first line should consist of the sender’s name or the name of the sender’s business, the second should be the sender’s address, and the third should be the city, state, and zip code.
  • The recipient’s name and address go in the middle: When sending mail, the person’s name, and the address of the person you are sending to should be written in the middle of the envelope. The first line should be the recipient’s name, the second should be their address, and the third should be their city, state, and zip code.
  • Write legibly: When you are writing the address on an envelope, write it clearly so that mail delivery personnel can read it easily and process it correctly. Unclear writing can result in the piece of mail being returned to the sender if no one can tell where it’s supposed to go.
  • Don’t forget the stamp: Whether you are mailing a letter to someone up the street or across the country, you are going to need to include a stamp or sometimes multiple stamps. Stamps can be purchased at all post office locations and are supposed to be placed on the upper-right corner of the envelope. If you are sending your mail internationally, check with the post office to determine how many stamps you will need to include.
  • Use titles when addressing people: If you are sending mail to or from a business or an organization, it’s respectful to use a title when addressing someone. Examples of titles include Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss., or Dr.
  • International mail: If you are mailing something internationally, be sure to write the country you reside in with the return address on the top left corner of the envelope. When writing the recipient’s address, the first and second line stays the same. The third line should consist of the recipient’s province state, or county name followed by their postal code. The country name should also be written, which goes on the fourth line.

Here is an example of a properly addressed envelope to demonstrate proper placement of information:

Envelope showing addresses and stamp

Why is it important to know how to address an envelope?

Addressing envelopes is something that everyone should know how to do, especially early on in life. Since sending and receiving mail isn’t going away anytime soon, so learning the proper envelope address format is necessary and important for many people to know.

Teaching children how to put an address on an envelope the right way can set them up for success once they get older. It can become second nature for some people, or even a daily task depending on their field of work. We will all pretty much need to know how to send mail and the correct placement of information on the envelope, so learning the right way to do it can be an important life skill.

Sending documents like invoices and contracts are essential for business purposes, just like shipping products to consumers. Making sure the addresses are written correctly can have a positive impact on the delivery process. To make it easier, you can use address labels that act as a sticker to write the information on. That way, if something is incorrect, it can be rewritten which can reduce the chance that a letter or package will be returned to the sender. Overall, knowing the correct address formats for sending mail is critical, both for business and personal reasons.

How to address a family on an envelope?

Depending on who you are addressing your mail to, the format or etiquette may change. When addressing a family, the first line is the only part that is different compared to the basic addressing format. Instead of addressing the letter to one person, you can address it to the whole family. Here are a few different ways in which you can address the family you are sending mail to:

  1. You can fully write out everyone’s name.
  2. You can write out, “The Smith Family.”
  3. Or you could write “Mr. and Mrs. Smith + Family.”
  4. If you are sending mail to just the children of the family, you can write out, “The Smith children.”

How to address a married couple on an envelope?

Similar to addressing a family on an envelope, you can address a married couple in the same ways. Here are some examples of how to address a married couple on the first line:

  1. Use titles to keep it short and sweet: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
  2. Write out their first names along with their shared last name: “John & Jane Smith.”
  3. Combine the two methods for more of a formal way of addressing the couple: “Mr. John Smith & Mrs. Jane Smith.”
  4. If they do not share a last name, you can write out each individual name instead.
  5. The most formal way of addressing a couple is to write: “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.”

What is the process for addressing an envelope to a business?

Addressing an envelope to a business is different than addressing one to a home where people live because businesses tend to be more formal.

When addressing to a business, you want to make sure that your letter gets to the correct person. Since businesses tend to have many employees, you are going to have to write some additional information on the envelope depending on how much you know about the person’s position. Here are some tips for addressing an envelope to a business:

  1. Include a return address in the top left corner.
  2. Write the recipient’s name in the middle of the envelope followed by their position if you know it. An example could be Executive Assistant, or Marketing Manager. If you don’t know the recipient’s name, write the abbreviation, “attn,” followed by their title. This way, whoever organizes the mail in the office knows who to give it to.
  3. Underneath that, write the full name of the company, followed by the street address.
  4. After that, be sure to include the city, state, and zip code, similar to addressing a residential location.
  5. And lastly, don’t forget the stamp, which always goes in the upper right corner of the envelope.

How to address an envelope to an apartment?

Addressing an apartment consists of a few differences compared to addressing a home or a business. You would still write the recipient’s full name on the first line that is located in the middle of the envelope. The second line is where additional information is needed to ensure it gets to the right person.

In order to make sure the envelope gets to the right person, you need to write down the building in which they live, and the exact apartment number. This information gets placed on the second line, after the street address. The third line stays the same, which is the city, state, and zip code of the recipient you wish to send mail to. You can and should use abbreviations for “building” and “apartment,” because it takes up less space on the envelope and is easier to read. Those are as follows:

  • “BLDG” is short for “building.”
  • “APT” is short for “apartment.”

Here is an example of addressing an apartment:

Jane Smith

123 Stanley Ln, BLDG 3, APT 34

New York City, NY, 12345

How to address an envelope to a P.O. box?

P.O. boxes are mailboxes located at a post office where a receiver wishes to receive mail. There are many reasons to have a P.O. box instead of using a regular mailbox. Making sure to address the envelope correctly if the recipient uses a P.O. box is important. If the recipient works for a company or an organization, follow the business format depending on the information you have available. The only difference is that instead of a street number and name, you are going to put the P.O. box number there instead. The format should read:

Jane Smith, Marketing Manager

ABC Company Inc.

Marketing Department

P.O. Box 5678

New York City, NY, 12345

If you are addressing an envelope to someone’s residence, omit the person’s employment title, and the company’s name and department in which they work. Use the basic format of addressing an envelope with the recipient’s name on the first line, the P.O. Box number on the second line, followed by the city, state and zip code that the postal office is located in. The post office’s city, state, and zip code is going to be the information that you write on the envelope, not the recipient’s primary residential address zip code. Some people like to have P.O. boxes in different towns, cities or states depending on different preferences and factors.

How to address a package?

Addressing a package is similar to addressing an envelope. Simply choose one side of the box or mailer to write the addresses on and get a permanent marker or a good pen that will not fade during delivery.

First, write the return address on the top left corner, just like on an envelope. The recipient’s address should be written in the middle of the package, or wherever there is enough space. Remember to write legibly and include a business name and the person’s position if applicable. The recipient’s full name goes on the top, followed by the street address. The city, state and zip code should go underneath the street address if the package is being sent domestically. If being sent internationally, follow the international format with the province, state, or county name on the third line along with the postal code. Country name should be the last bit of information and should go on the fourth line.

Brown box showing addresses and tape

Can packages be sent to P.O. boxes?

Packages can be sent to P.O. boxes. In many cases, sending a package to a P.O. box is safer than sending it to the recipient’s home or business address. Packages that are sent to someone’s residence or business are more susceptible to being stolen compared to sending them to a P.O. box. Packages may also arrive quicker to a P.O. box compared to a person’s residence or business because post office personnel don’t need to travel to those places to drop off the package. The only way packages won’t get sent to a P.O. box is if the package is being sent through a different delivery system such as UPS or FedEx.

If a package is too large to fit inside someone’s P.O. box, post office personnel keep it in a safe area until the recipient comes to retrieve it. You will most likely have to show identification to pick it up, so that post office personnel are giving it to the correct person.

How to Properly Address an Envelope

Learning the many formats for addressing an envelope properly is an important life skill to have. Things like etiquette and formality will be appreciated and noticed when a receiver gets mail, since some first impressions can come from what mail looks like. Cover letters for a new job, wedding invitations, and holiday cards can all be examples of when addressing an envelope with proper format is necessary. Showing attention to detail when addressing an envelope is respectful and will always be needed.


Apartment Guide. The Correct Way to Write an Apartment Address (You’ve Been Doing it all Wrong). ( Accessed January 11, 2023.

PostGrid. How to Write International Address the Right Way to Ensure Accurate Deliveries. ( Accessed January 13, 2023.

Shippo. Shipping to P.O. Boxes: Is it a No? Or is it a Go? ( Accessed January 13, 2023.

The Spruce. How to Address an Envelope Properly. ( Accessed January 11, 2023.

US Global Mail. PO Box Address Format. ( Accessed January 11, 2023.