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

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Address mail correctly before handing it off to the post office.
Address mail correctly before handing it off to the post office. (Image: courrier 1 image by Nathalie P from Fotolia.com)

Many a check has gotten lost in the mail, but sometimes it isn’t the post office’s fault. It can be an error on the part of the sender. To ensure that your domestic mail reaches its destination, you must properly format the mailing address on your envelope or package.

Line 1: Name

The first line of your mailing address is your recipient’s name. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS) website, mail does not require a specific recipient. However, in the cases of fliers and other mass mailings, USPS recommends addressing mail to “Occupant” or “Postal Customer” to avoid the appearance of missing information.

Line 2: Company

If you’re sending your mail to a business address, write the name of the recipient’s company directly below her name.

Line 3: Street Address and Unit Number

Immediately below the company name, or the recipient name if you’re sending mail to a residence, write both the street address and any applicable unit number--for example, a suite or apartment number--on the same line. For instance, if you’re addressing mail to a friend who lives in apartment 101 at 123 Main St., the correct format for mail reads “123 MAIN STREET, APT 101.”

Automated mail processing machines used by USPS read information from the bottom up, so each line of information should be more specific than the line below it. If the address and unit number don’t fit onto the same line, list the unit number first. Do not list a unit number below the building’s street address. For example, "SUITE 1212, 12345 LA CIENEGA BLVD" might not fit on a single line on your mailing label, so write "SUITE 1212" below the company or individual name and "12345 LA CIENEGA BLVD" on the line below it.

Line 4: City, State and ZIP Code

The final line of your mailing address should include the state, city and 5-digit ZIP code of your recipient.

Additional Tips

Even a properly addressed envelope might not make it to its final destination. To give your mail the best possible chance at being properly delivered, the Postal Service offers additional suggestions when labeling your packages. For the sake of clarity, USPS recommends writing only in capital letters and avoiding punctuation. For example, write “STREET” or “ST” instead of “St." Make sure all text is left-aligned; centered text may look attractive on the middle of an envelope, but it can be misread by automated mail sorters. When possible, include the extended ZIP+4 code. If nothing else, write neatly--if a human can’t read the address on your envelope, a machine certainly won't be able to.

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