How to Mail an Envelope

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The United States Postal Service requires that several things be in place in order to mail an envelope. The outside of an envelope must contain certain information, such as the recipient’s address and return address, and must include the correct postage, of course. The USPS also provides several guidelines for mailing envelopes, so make sure that you are following them the next time you place something in the mailbox.

Things You'll Need

  • Pens
  • Stamps or other postage method
  • Labels (optional)

Buy envelopes. Standard white envelops can be used for letters, cards, bills and other items. If you are mailing larger items, be sure to use larger manila envelopes.

Put the recipient’s address on the front of the envelope near the center. The USPS recommends that you write legibly and not use commas or periods. Or, you could print a label with the address. The address should include the recipient’s name on the first line. The second line should include the street address (include apartment or suite number) or post office box. Be sure to include all information related to street address, including the full street name, like W Elm St or Maple Drive. The third line should include the city, state postal abbreviation and ZIP code. The state postal abbreviations are two capital letters only. Use the USPS’s ZIP code look-up if you are unsure of the recipient’s ZIP code (see Resources).

Put the return address in the upper left corner of the front of the envelope. This address should also be written legibly or typed on a label. It should follow the same address guidelines as the recipient’s address. The first line should include the sender’s name. The second line should include the sender’s full street address or post office box. The third line should include the sender’s city, state (using the USPS state abbreviations) and ZIP code.

Place what you want to send into the envelope, then seal it. Some envelopes are self-adhesive, while others need to be moistened in order to seal. Make sure the envelope is completely and securely sealed. If the envelope’s adhesive doesn’t stick well, use tape to properly seal it.

Put postage on the envelope. A regular letter-sized envelope requires a 42-cent stamp. The USPS now offers Forever Stamps, which are purchased at the current postage rate but may be used after the rate increases. If you are mailing a larger manila envelope, the postage will need to be calculated. Postage can be purchased and printed online at the USPS’s website (see Resources), but it is a good idea to take the envelope to the post office if you are unsure of the weight of the envelope and its contents.

Place the envelope in a mailbox. The USPS has big blue mailboxes located all around most cities and towns. You can also take the envelope to the post office. Or, another option is to place it in the mailbox at home for the mail carrier to pick up.

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