Addressing an envelope to mail a letter isn’t really a common task anymore. (Thanks, email!) But there’s always a chance a situation might pop up where you need to know how to properly address a letter envelope. Everything from sending out wedding invitations to paying bills requires you to know how to address envelopes.
If you don’t know how to address an envelope, you’re in the right place! This article will tell you everything you need to know about addressing an envelope if you’re sending letters in the United States. In this article, we’re going to cover the following info:
- A full explanation of how to address a letter envelope
- A detailed example of how to write address on letter envelopes (photo example included!)
- Descriptions of how to address letters in specific circumstances, including PO boxes, apartment addresses, and overseas letters to the U.S.
Are you ready to learn how to address an envelope? Then let’s get started!
How to Properly Address an Envelope: The Basics
Addressing an envelope is pretty simple once you understand the overall format. Let’s start with the most basic thing you need to know about how to address an envelope: which part of the envelope you write on!
An envelope has a front and back side. The front of an envelope is blank, and the back of an envelope has a flap and seal. You write and place your stamps on the front of an envelope.
Once you’ve checked to make sure your envelope is in the right position, you’re ready to start addressing it. So what is the proper address format for a letter? There are three components to addressing an envelope: the recipient’s address, the return address, and the postage. We’ll start with explaining how to address letters to recipients in the U.S. and cover how to address letters to Canada later.
The recipient's address goes in the center of your envelope, right in the red square. (FYI: there won't be a red square on your actual envelope.)
Writing the Recipient’s Address
The recipient’s address is the address that you want your letter to be sent to. You write the recipient’s address horizontally and vertically centered, or right in the middle of the front side of the envelope. To write the recipient’s address properly, you need the following information:
- The recipient’s full name
- The recipient’s street address
- The recipient’s city, state, and zip code
When you write the three parts of the recipient’s address, each part listed above gets its own line. A properly formatted recipient’s address will look like this on an envelope:
1234 Street Name St.
City, State Zip Code
In the example address above, you see that the recipient’s name appears on the first line of the address. Below that, you write the recipient’s street address. On the bottom line, you write the recipient’s city and state, separated by a comma, and the recipient’s zip code at the end.
This is how you write the recipient’s address on an envelope when the recipient just has a basic residential address. We’ll talk more about how to write more complicated addresses (like apartment buildings and PO boxes) a bit later.
The return address on your envelope should be in the top left corner. (Basically it should end up where the red square is on this example!)
Writing the Return Address
The return address is the other main piece of a properly addressed letter. The return address is typically the same as the sender’s address. It’s called the return address because if the recipient can’t receive the letter for some reason, it will be returned to the sender. That way your letter--or your bill!--doesn’t just disappear.
Most of the time, the return address will be your home address. The return address should be written in the upper left hand corner of the front of the envelope. Like the recipient’s address, the sender’s address is broken down into three pieces that are written on separate lines. The sender’s address should usually look like this:
90 Main Street
Orlando, Florida 32825
So, just like the recipient’s address, the return address should include your name or the sender’s name on the first line, the sender’s street address on the second line, and the sender’s city, state, and zip code on the third line.
The stamp on your envelope should go in the same spot as the stamp on this one. Just make sure you're using the correct postage!
You probably already know that sending letters costs money in the form of stamps or other postage. If you’re mailing a letter from home, you’ll need to purchase stamps to add to your letter to cover the cost of mailing it. Most of the time, you can purchase stamps when checking out at the grocery store or from your local post office.
When mailing standard letters within the United States, you usually only need to include one Forever stamp. Bigger envelopes or packages may require additional postage.
So where do you place stamps on an envelope? Stamps should be placed in the upper right hand corner of the front of an envelope. People usually try to place the stamp pretty close to the edges of the envelope.
Some people prefer to mail letters directly through the post office. If you choose to do this, you can take your letter to the post office and have them handle the postage. When the post office adds postage to your letter and mails it for you, you’ll just pay the post office instead of buying stamps.
Keep in mind that the number and type of stamps you’ll need depend on what you’re mailing. An average letter will require a different number of stamps than a manila envelope full of heavy documents. If you’re ever unsure about how many stamps you should put on your envelope or what the best way to mail your letter is, you can always call and ask your local post office or check the USPS website.
Sending a letter to Canada? Follow the special instructions below.
How to Address a Letter to Canada
You may have a situation where you need to address a letter to Canada. Addressing a letter to Canada is very similar to addressing one to a U.S. recipient, but there are a couple of differences you need to know.
There are four lines that you need to include in the recipient’s address for a letter to Canada:
- The recipient’s full name
- The street address
- The city, province, and postal code
- The name of the country
So a letter envelope addressed to a recipient in Canada would look like this:
567 Walnut Street
Toronto ON MSV 1J2
Now, let’s talk about how this Canadian address is different from a U.S. address. First, Canada has provinces instead of states. This means you’ll need to know the Canadian province that the recipient lives in. In the example address above, “Toronto” is the city in Canada where the recipient lives, and “Ontario” is the province.
Postal codes also look a little bit different in Canadian addresses. In this example, the postal code, “MSV 1J2” appears at the end of the third line of the address. Unlike U.S. postal codes, Canadian postal codes include both letters and numbers. Be sure to pay close attention when writing the postal code to ensure the letters and numbers are in the correct order. If you aren’t sure which province the recipient lives in or what their postal code is, you can look it up on the USPS website or the Canada Post website.
Finally, the name of the country should be written on the fourth and last line of the recipient’s address. If you’re sending a letter to Canada, just write “Canada” on the fourth line! That’s the last step to writing the recipient’s address on a letter to Canada.
You’ll also need to include a return address in the upper left hand corner of your envelope. It should be formatted just like the return address on any other letter: your name appears in the first line, your street address in the second line, and your city, state, and zip code in the third line.
The only major difference in writing the return address on a letter to Canada is that you will also need to include your country on the fourth and last line. So if you’re writing from the U.S., you will simply write, “United States” on the fourth line.
The last thing you’ll need is postage. Postage rates from the U.S. to Canada can vary based on the size and weight of the letter and the location you’re mailing to and from. To find out the correct number of stamps or cost of postage, use the Canada Post Rate Calculator.
How to Write Address on Envelopes: Picture Example
When it comes to how to address an envelope, having a visual example can help you know you’re getting it right. Here’s an example of what a correctly addressed envelope looks like:
This example includes the recipient’s address, return address, and location of postage. You can use the spatial layout of this example as a guide too. The return address and recipient’s address on your envelope should be in about the same place as the ones you see in this example.
4 Other Examples of How to Fill Out an Envelope
Now that you know the basics of how to address an envelope, let’s look at some specific types of addresses. Formatting addresses for mailing can differ depending on the type of residence of your recipient and where you’re mailing from. We’ll cover the basics of how to write an envelope address for PO boxes, apartment buildings, businesses, and U.S. recipients from overseas senders below.
How to Address a Letter to a PO Box
When it comes to how to write an address on an envelope for a PO box, there are a few things you need to know. A PO box, or post office box, is a lockable box that’s located in a post office. Some people choose to receive their mail at PO boxes, and some countries only use PO boxes to deliver local mail. If your recipient has a PO box, you have to include that info in the address on the envelope.
To address an envelope to a PO box, you’ll replace the street address information with the PO box number. If you’re writing the address with a PO box on an envelope, it should look like this:
Lara Jean Covey
PO Box 123
Portland, OR 97214
In the example above, the PO box and the box number replace a normal street address. Including the correct PO box number ensures that your letter gets to the right place!
How to Address a Letter to an Apartment Building
To properly address an envelope to an apartment building, you need to include the street address, the building number, and the recipient’s unit number.
When addressing an envelope to a recipient who lives in an apartment, the address should look like this:
90 Bedford St, Building A, Apartment 2
New York, New York 10014
In this example, the street address appears on the second line, followed by the apartment building number and the number of the recipient’s apartment unit.
With all of that information, addresses for apartments can sometimes be a little long. If you can, try to fit all of the information about the street address, building, and apartment number on the second line. If it gets too long, move the building and apartment number to the third line.
If you aren’t sure about how to write the recipient’s address, you can always call their apartment complex to get this information, or check with the U.S. Postal Service.
How to Address a Letter to Someone in an Office Building
Correctly addressing an envelope to a person at a company ensures it will end up in the right hands. When addressing an envelope to someone who works in an office building, you need to include a couple of extra elements on your envelope.
When writing out the recipient’s name and address, you should include the abbreviation “Attn” followed by a colon before the recipient’s name, like this:
Attn: Michael Scott
“Attn” stands for “attention,” which means that the letter should be brought to that person’s attention within the company!
Below the company name, include the name of the recipient on the next line. The company’s address goes on the line below that. The company’s delivery address will most likely include the company’s street address and the suite number of the recipient. On the fourth and final line, write the city, state, and zip code.
The full recipient address on a business envelope should look like this:
Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company, Inc.
Attn: Michael Scott
1725 Slough Avenue, Suite 4
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18505
You may see something like “C/O" in front of the recipient’s name instead of “Attn” in some examples. That’s okay: the “C/O" means “care of,” and it works exactly the same way as “Attn.” Both “C/O" and “Attn” will ensure your letter goes to the right recipient when you’re sending a letter to a business address.
The return address on a business envelope should read exactly like the return address on regular mail. And when it comes to postage, check with the U.S. Postal Service. If you’re mailing larger envelopes, you might need multiple stamps or postage.
How to Address a Letter to Someone in the U.S. From Overseas
If you’re mailing a letter to the U.S. from another country, you have to include a couple of extra elements on your envelope. The main things you need to include on an envelope to someone in the U.S. from overseas are the name of the country and international postage.
An address on an envelope to someone in the U.S. from overseas should look something like this:
1111 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
So when you write a letter to a U.S. recipient if you’re out of the country, you include the recipient’s name in the first line, the street address in the second line, and the city, state, and zip code in the third line. The one additional thing you must include is the name of the country in the fourth line of the address.
What about if you need to mail a letter from the U.S. to another country? Depending on the mailing service you’re using, there may be additional forms you need to fill out in order to send your letter. You can find out the requirements for mailing to different countries by checking the USPS Global Express website. You might consider using a service that assigns tracking numbers to letters and packages. That way you can ensure your letter arrives at its destination successfully.
You also need to include the right kind of postage for international mailing. You can purchase international stamps from your post office. These are the kind you will need to send international mail to the U.S. You can find out the correct postage for your letter by checking the USPS postage rates and prices website. Global Forever international postage stamps currently cost $1.20 apiece.
One type of letter you may have to address during your college application process is a letter of recommendation. You can learn all about letters of recommendation in this article!
Not all letters of recommendation are equal, though. Here’s an example of what a great letter of recommendation should look like.
Did you know you may need letters of recommendation for your job search, too? Here’s a rundown of what a professional letter of recommendation looks like...and helpful tips about asking for them.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.