Although the letter that's inside the envelope may seem like the most important thing when sending a piece of mail, it is the address on the outside that is your first interaction with the recipient. If the address does not conform to appropriate mailing standards, your envelope may not ever reach its intended receiver or may be sent to the wrong person. Mailing delays could put a damper on your business transaction and give you an unprofessional appearance. The following guidelines provide information on addressing business envelopes.
Standard Three-Line Block
According to the U.S. Postal Service, an address is considered minimally complete when it contains a Postcode plus the 4 digit extension, city and state, street address, and a recipient (either a specific person or business name). An address is considered standardised when it is fully spelt out (no abbreviations). The three lines should be left-justified and all capital letters. For example:
JANE SMITH 101 MAIN STREET RALEIGH, NC 27612
Capital letters are preferred by the postal system (and best for automated machines) but they are not required. Letters with regular capitalisation will still be routed to their recipients.
When you send a letter to a specific recipient at a business, the envelope should be addressed to her attention above the name of the company. For example:
ATTN JANE SMITH CAT SERVICES 101 MAIN STREET RALEIGH, NC 27612
An attention line is not required to send mail (nor is a company name), but it helps get the letter to the correct recipient, especially in large companies where mail is sorted by department or personnel.
U.S. postal standards state that the courtesy titles Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc., are not required when addressing an envelope. If you wish to use the title, it is best to go with Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith (not Mrs.). Recipients who have degrees or titles may be addressed as so: Jane Smith, R.N.; Dr. Jane Smith; Jane Smith, Esq. (do not spell out Esquire). When using a professional title, eliminate the courtesy title: Jane Smith, Esq, not Ms. Jane Smith, Esq. Eliminating the courtesy title will help when you are unsure of a person's gender and do not want to make an assumption or a mistake.
The last line of the address contains some of the most important information: city, state, Postcode, and 4-digit extension. This line should consist of the city's name (not abbreviated), one space, the two-letter abbreviation for the state, two spaces, the 5-digit Postcode, a hyphen, and then the 4-digit extension. For example:
RALEIGH NC 27612-5670
Offices using automated postal machines or printing large quantities of envelopes must take care that their envelopes comply with readability regulations. Readability guidelines for business mailing suggest up to five lines for an address:
- An optional line of non-address data (subscriber number, for example).
- The person to whose attention the letter is addressed (optional if the letter is a general mailing to a company).
- The name of the business to whose attention the letter is addressed.
- Delivery address (street/road).
- City, state, and Postcode plus 4-digit extension.
083712247 MS JANE SMITH CAT SERVICES 101 MAIN STREET RALEIGH NC 27612-5670
Machines processing mail perform best with dark ink on a light surface. Each character should be separate, not touching or smeared. If the business will be using a bar code, the address area should be printed high enough on the envelope so that the bar code will not overprint.
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