Addressing Envelopes Etiquette

Updated June 27, 2017

While much of today's communication is done by phone or e-mail, some traditional methods of personal contact still apply, including wedding invitations, greeting cards and business correspondence. A properly addressed envelope with a neat appearance makes a good first impression. To gain that essential ground and make that impression, some rules of etiquette guide the art of addressing envelopes.

Wedding Invitations

A wedding is often the biggest formal event in someone's life, so special care is paid to all the details, including how to address envelopes. With wedding invitations, the exterior envelope branded by postage contains a smaller envelope inside. Both envelopes are traditionally addressed by hand in a lovely, flowing script; the return address is usually printed on the exterior envelope. Necessary information, such as name, street address, city, state and Postcode, must be included, and titles should be used; this is one instance where "Mr." and "Mrs." never goes out of style.

Center the address on the envelope, not only for aesthetics, but also because these pieces of mail will be read by U.S. Postal Service automatic scanners. No street address is required for the inner envelope; just write the titles and names of the guests.

Greeting Cards

Envelopes containing holiday wishes and special occasion cards should be handwritten, and titles should be used with the recipients' names. A married couple's name needs to appear on one line, but a couple with separate names can be listed on two lines, so you don't run out of space across the envelope. Also, having long name addressing lines across the envelope can cause it to be kicked out of the automated postal scanning system and hand-sorted, causing it to be delivered later. Return addresses on these cards can be printed on the envelope, or a special holiday label can be used.

Business Correspondence

Handwriting isn't required in business correspondence; in fact, a typed or printed address label is preferred. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has specific guidelines for addressing envelopes: Addresses should be centred with a straight-edged left margin, and the entire address should be typed in upper-case letters to help the optical scanner decipher the address and assign a bar code, speeding your communication along. Don't use periods or commas, but do use two-letter state abbreviations; look them up on the USPS website if you're not sure (see Resources).

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About the Author

Beth Bartlett has been freelance writing for nine years, and her work has appeared in such publications as "Meetings South," "Angels on Earth," "American Profile," and "Mental Floss." She also writes a weekly humor horoscope column for print and the Web.