How to address an envelope

Most communication these days is digital, whether it’s via text message, email or video chat. But there may be times when you want to send someone something—like a handwritten thank-you note, check, birthday card, invitation or letter—through the mail. 

If you’re going to send something via snail mail, you’ll want to make sure it gets to the right person at the correct address. That’s why it’s a good idea to know how to properly address an envelope.

Key takeaways

  • When sending an envelope, it’s important to include the sender’s full name and address, the recipient’s full name and address and any postage.
  • The sender’s name and address generally go in the top left corner of the envelope.
  • The recipient’s name and address should be in the lower center of the envelope.
  • Any postage goes in the top right corner of the envelope.
  • Addresses are written a bit differently when sending mail to someone in the military or internationally.

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How to fill out an envelope, step by step

There are just a few steps to fill out an envelope. You’ll put the sender’s name and return address on the top left corner and the recipient’s name and mailing address in the lower center. And you’ll typically place a stamp on it in the top right corner. All these generally go on the same flat side of the envelope. The order of the steps doesn’t really matter—as long as you complete them.

An image shows an envelope with a sender’s name and address and a recipient’s name and address printed on it.

1. Add the sender’s return address on the envelope

You’ll typically write, type or add a label with the sender’s return address in the top left corner of the envelope. This may have your information or the information for someone you’re helping to send the envelope. 

Here’s the order in which you’ll add the sender’s information, line by line:

  • Full name
  • Business or organization’s name, if applicable
  • Street address or P.O. Box number, including apartment or condo number, if applicable
  • City, state and zip code

2. Add the recipient’s mailing address

You’ll also want to make sure the recipient’s mailing address is on the envelope. The format is similar to the sender’s address, but you’ll put the recipient’s information in the lower center of the envelope. 

Here’s the order in which you’ll add the recipient’s information:

  • Full name, possibly including a title such as “Dr.” or “Mrs.” before their name if it’s a formal piece of mail. You may also want to add “Attn:” or “c/o" to direct the mail to a certain person.
  • Business or organization’s name, if applicable
  • Street address or P.O. Box number, including apartment or condo number, if applicable
  • City, state and zip code

3. Add a stamp

You’ll typically need to add a stamp on the envelope to make sure it goes through the mail. If you’re wondering, how much is a postage stamp? It’s currently 63 cents for a standard-sized, rectangular envelope, but it may change. 

If the envelope is heavier, it might require more than one stamp. The U.S. Postal Service has information on its site to help calculate the amount of postage you’ll need.

What to do after addressing an envelope

Once you’ve addressed your envelope, you have a few options for sending it:

  • Leave it in your mailbox and indicate it’s ready to be sent by raising the flag, if you have one.
  • Take it to your local post office. 
  • Drop it in an official blue collection box.

How to write a military address on an envelope

A military address is a bit different from a standard address, but the format and placement for the recipient address are similar.

You’ll want to include the recipient’s information in this order:

  • Full name, including their rank
  • Postal service center (PSC) number, unit number or ship name 
  • Army and Air Force Post Office (APO), U.S. Navy Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) designation; two-letter abbreviation: AA for Armed Forces of the Americas, AE for Armed Forces of Europe or AP for Armed Forces of the Pacific; and nine-digit zip code

How to address an envelope for international mail

The format and placement for sending an envelope internationally are the same, but you’ll add the sender’s and recipient’s countries in a separate last line for each. In the top left corner, you’ll add your or the sender’s name and address as normal, but you’ll put the sender’s country in a line below the city, state and zip code.

For the recipient, you’ll still put their name and address in the lower center of the envelope, but you’ll add their country on the last line. The Postal Service also requires that the recipient’s address be written in English. If the address is in another language, the English translation should be after each line.

Addressing envelopes for other purposes

Addressing an envelope can be pretty standard, but there are some situations where the format can vary. Here are a few examples.

How to write an address for an apartment

If you’re sending mail to an apartment, it’s important to include the apartment number, in addition to the full street address.

The Postal Service recommends putting the apartment number at the end of the street address line. For example, an address might be: 100 Main St., Apt. 2. But if all the information can’t fit on the address line above the city, state and zip code, the Postal Service advises putting the apartment number on a line above the street address.

How to write a P.O. Box address

When sending mail to a P.O. Box, it’s important to designate that by putting “P.O. Box” and the correct number in the address line. The recipient’s name and address will still be in the lower center part of the envelope, but it’ll have a P.O. Box number, instead of a street address.

How to address an envelope to a couple

When it comes to addressing an envelope to a couple, the placement of the recipient address is the same. But it’ll be addressed to two people. How you write or print the couple’s names can depend on their relationship status and the formality of what’s in the envelope.

For any informal address, you might just have the couples’ names. For a formal address, it’s a good idea to add their titles before their names. And if, for example, one has a doctorate or military title, their name would typically go before their partner’s.

How to address an envelope to a family

Addressing an envelope to a family is similar to a couple’s address. The placement of the recipient address on the envelope is the same, but the first line will be addressed to several people.

You might address the envelope with the family name, like “The Smith Family,” or you might have the parents’ names with “and Family” added. Keep in mind, if you’re sending an invitation, it’s helpful to make it clear which members of the family are invited.

How to address a postcard

A postcard looks a little different from an envelope. You won’t typically include a sender name and address. Instead, you can add a message and sign it. You’ll still need to include a recipient name and address, as well as postage, though. If you purchase a postcard, there will typically be several lines for the recipient name and address on the right side and a rectangle at the top right corner for the postage.

Other tips for addressing an envelope

Besides how and where to address an envelope, there are some other tips that can help ensure your envelope reaches the correct recipient. 

The Postal Service recommends:

  • Writing or typing addresses clearly in capital letters
  • Writing with a pen or permanent marker
  • Including the nine-digit zip code, if possible

Addressing an envelope in a nutshell

Whether you’re sending a loved one a letter, mailing a bill or inviting someone to a birthday party, it’s a good idea to know how to properly address an envelope to make sure it’s received. If your envelope includes a check, you might want to be familiar with how to write a check before sealing the envelope. And if you’ll be sending out cards with your new home address, double-check that you’ve completed all the steps for changing your address.

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