What is the proper way to address an envelope in the U.S. and Canada? Do you think you know the answer? In a business writing seminar last week, we found we did not all agree on what is correct. So I have done research into addressing envelopes (I know how to have fun!), using Publication 28 of the United States Postal Service (USPS), Addressing Guidelines of the Canada Post, and, for backup, The Gregg Reference Manual.
- If you want to include an Attention line on the envelope, does it belong at the beginning of the address, or below it?
- Do U.S. and Canadian postal authorities require that you use all-capital letters in addresses?
- For international mailing from the U.S. or Canada, should you underline the country to which you are mailing? Should you abbreviate it, for example UAE for United Arab Emirates?
- True or False: If an address line is longer than 40 characters, the optical scanner of the USPS will not read it.
- Does the USPS require that you eliminate courtesy titles such as Ms. and Mr. in discount mailings?
- In Canada, is it acceptable to translate French names of locales into English? (for example, rendering Trois-Rivieres as Three Rivers)?
- When copying an address from someone’s business card, should you include both the physical address and the P.O. Box if both are on the card?
- Is it acceptable to center the elements of an address, like this?
Mr. Rod Donaldson
17714 N. Broadview Circle
Chicago, IL 60402-2423
- What is the one punctuation mark the USPS requires in the address?
- Which of these is correct:
16240 Washington Street, Suite 201 OR
16240 Washington Street
- In the U.S. and Canada, is it correct to include the # (number sign) in addresses, as in:
989 Revere Drive, Apt. #204
- Does the USPS prefer that you spell out city names (for example, West Stockbridge) or abbreviate them (W. Stockbridge)?
- Do the USPS and Canada Post prefer that you spell out Rural Route or use the abbreviation RR?
- Do the USPS and Canada Post prefer one space or two before the ZIP code or postal code?
- In Canada, what does the first letter of the postal code represent (for example, the H in H3Z 2Y7)?
- Any Attention line belongs at the beginning of the address. Nothing should be included on the envelope below the address.
- Both postal authorities prefer addresses in all-capital letters but do not require them, knowing that customers have strong preferences for normal capitalization.
- Do not underline or abbreviate country names.
- True, according to the USPS.
- The USPS has no preference about courtesy titles. You may decide to omit a courtesy title to shorten a line.
- It is not acceptable to translate place names.
- If you are mailing through Canada Post or the USPS, use only the mailing address–for example, the P.O. Box. If you are mailing through a service such as FedEx, use the street address. If you are not sure what to do, include the street address above the P.O. Box.
- It is not acceptable to center addresses. Use a uniform left margin.
- The USPS requires a hyphen between the two parts of the ZIP+4 Code. Example: 98117-5415
- The correct choice includes the suite on the same line. If the line is too long, information such as Suite, Apartment, etc., should be on the line above–not below. Addresses go from small to big; that is, from person, to department, to company, to street, to city, to state, to country.
- In the U.S., it is not correct to include the number sign if you know what the unit is. For example, if you know that it is an apartment, write Apt. 24. If you know it is a box, write Box 27. If you do not know what the number stands for, you may use the number sign, but the USPS asks that you leave a space between the number sign and the number, like this: # 45. In Canada, you should never use the # or the French equivalent.
- The USPS prefers that you spell out cities. Only abbreviate if you must shorten a line.
- Both postal authorities want RR–not Rural Route.
- Both postal authorities want two spaces before the codes.
- The first letter in Canada’s postal codes indicates one of 18 major geographic areas, provinces, or districts. Although Y represents the Yukon Territory and S stands for Saskatchewan, the other letters do not seem to match the geographical area.
I hope you learned something–I certainly did. To keep on learning, please use these links: Publication 28 of the United States Postal Service, Addressing Guidelines of the Canada Post, and The Gregg Reference Manual. Remember: I am a writer and a business writing teacher–not a mailing expert.