How to address an envelope: Your guide to sending a letter through the US Postal Service

·5 min read

Sending mail can be quite a task.

Maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans voting by mail. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 43% of voters cast their ballots this way in 2020.

Or maybe you just want to put a personal touch on your communication with a handwritten letter to a loved one. After all, 70% of consumers say direct mail is more personal than interacting digitally, according to Fundera.

Whatever your reason for sending mail, here’s how to make sure your letter doesn’t get lost in the 143 billion pieces of mail the U.S. Postal Service says it sorts each year.

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How to address an envelope to mail within the United States

Even if seems tedious, addressing an envelope is simple.

On the side without the fold tab, write the address to which you’d like to send your mail in the center of the envelope in this format:

  • RECIPIENT NAME

  • STREET ADDRESS

  • APARTMENT/PO BOX NUMBER (if applicable)

  • CITY, STATE, AND ZIP CODE

  • COUNTRY

If you’re sending mail within the United States, it’s not required to put the country, but it never hurts to include this information.

On the same side of the envelope, write your return address with your own information in the top left corner in the same order as the recipient information above.

The Spruce suggests using black or blue ink and not using cursive writing. Print clearly to avoid having your letter go to the wrong address.

Your stamp goes in the top right corner. According to USPS, you can send any envelope weighing 1 ounce or less with just one Forever Stamp. Heavier parcels may require more stamps.

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How to address an envelope for a business letter

To address a business envelope, simply add the name of the business between the recipient name and the street address, according to The Spruce.

It should look like this:

  • RECIPIENT/DEPARTMENT NAME

  • BUSINESS NAME

  • STREET ADDRESS

  • APARTMENT/PO BOX NUMBER (if applicable)

  • CITY, STATE, AND ZIP CODE

  • COUNTRY

As always, your return address should go in the upper left hand corner of the envelope.

According to Indeed, it is also customary to include your return address, email address and phone number, as well as the recipient's address, in the top left corner of the letter.

How to address an envelope being sent outside the USA

According to the United States Postal Service, addressing an envelope for international mailing is very similar to mailing domestically. The information should go in this order, in all capital letters, written legibly with a pen or typewritten, according to the USPS.

  • RECIPIENT'S FULL LEGAL NAME

  • STREET ADDRESS OR PO BOX NUMBER

  • CITY/TOWN, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER SUBDIVISION (province, state, county, etc.) AND THE POSTAL CODE IF YOU KNOW IT

  • COUNTRY NAME (in English)

In the top left corner, you need a complete return address in the same format.

How to address an envelope with a military address

The USPS's instructions for sending military mail outline a number of differences between military mail and regular mail.

It's important you do not include a city or country name in military mailing addresses, or you'll risk the mail getting sent through that country's own postal system instead of the armed services' system.

These addresses, then, will only be three lines.

The first line is the recipient's name, with or without their rank.

In the second line, you must either write "UNIT," "CMR" (Community Mail Room) or "PSC" (Postal Service Center) based on how the addressee receives their mail. You will also need the unit, CMR or PSC number, as well as the box to which the recipient is assigned.

In the third and final line, you must write "APO" (Army/Air Force Post Office), "FPO" (Fleet Post Office, which is the designation for the Navy) or "DPO" (Diplomatic Post Office), as well as the corresponding state code (AA, AE or AP).

The third line also requires the ZIP code. According to the USPS, overseas military ZIP codes are assigned as follows:

  • 090-092 Germany

  • 093 Contingency

  • 094 United Kingdom

  • 095 Atlantic / Mediterranean Ships

  • 096 Italy, Spain

  • 097 Other Europe,

  • 098 Middle East/Africa

  • 340 Americas (Not US or Canada)

  • 962 Korea

  • 964 Philippines

  • 965 Other Pacific / Alaska

  • 966 Pacific / Indian Ocean Ships

It should look like this:

  • NAME OF RECIPIENT (with or without rank)

  • UNIT/CMR/PSC, NUMBER AND BOX NUMBER

  • APO/FPO/DPO, AA/AE/AP and ZIP CODE

This envelope can be stamped like regular domestic mail. This means you only need one Forever Stamp to send a card to a servicemember anywhere in the world.

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How to mail an addressed envelope

Once your envelope is correctly sealed, addressed and stamped, it is ready to send. According to USPS, you can send an envelope or postcard by leaving it in your mailbox for your mail carrier to grab, dropping it in a blue USPS collection box or taking it to the Post Office.

You can also send your letter with UPS or FedEx by taking it to a local drop-off location.

Do stamps expire?

According to USPS, United States postage never expires. Unless you somehow have a stamp from before the year 1860, a U.S. Mail stamp will always be valid.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to address an envelope: From within the US to a military address

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