How To Write an Address: A Complete Guide

Updated July 31, 2023

The addresses that appear on an envelope or package delivered through the mail are an important piece of communication. Properly formatting an address is vital to ensuring that mail is delivered to the appropriate person in a timely manner.

In this article, we'll explain what an address is, the proper formatting and placement of addresses on different types of correspondence and packages, and we provide tips and examples of properly formatted addresses.

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What is an address?

An address provides the information necessary to locate a building, plot of land or structure. This collection of information is generally used in a specific format and contains things like political boundaries, street names, building numbers, organization names and postal codes as geographical references. Though an address is used regularly for a myriad of reasons, it is most commonly used to guide the routing of mail.

Related: Guide to Thank You Notes

How to write an address on an envelope

When addressing an envelope, you need to include both the sender's address and the recipient's address. Here are the steps and placement for each:

The sender's address

The address of the sender should be placed in the upper, left-hand corner. Here's what to include:

  1. The name of the sender should be placed on the first line.

  2. If you're sending from a business, you would list the company name on the next line.

  3. Next, you should write out the building number and street name.

  4. The final line should have the city, state and ZIP code for the address.

The recipient's address

You will need to place the address of the recipient in the center of the envelope. Here's how to complete their information:

  1. Place the recipient's name on the first line.

  2. On the second line, write the building number and street name.

  3. Include the city, state and ZIP code on the final line.

Though the formatting of the actual address can be different depending on who and where you are sending the letter, the placement is always the same.

How to write an address on a business letter

Though the actual geographical address is the same when mailing something to a company, there are a few other differences. Here's how to address a letter to someone at a company:

  1. Though not necessary, many people write "Attention:" or "ATTN:" before the recipient's name. Some prefer to also add the individual's prefix before their name. Additionally, if you know that the person uses a professional distinction or title (such as MBA, CEO or VP), add a comma after their surname followed by the designation.

  2. The second line should simply have the name of the business.

  3. Next, you will need to write the building number and street name.

  4. This line will contain the city, state and ZIP code.

Related: Formatting Your Business Letter: Definitions, Tips and Examples

How to format a military address

Military addresses follow the same basic format as regular addresses aside from a few distinctions. Here are the steps for writing a military address:

  1. Write out the recipient's name first.

  2. The next line should have the building number and street name.

  3. Instead of writing the name of the city, you will put DPO for the Diplomatic Post Office (diplomatic locations), FPO for the Fleet Post Office (Navy and ships) or APO for the Air/Army Post Office (Air Force or Army).

  4. The name of the state should be replaced with an abbreviation indicating the individual's duty station, such as AA for Armed Forces America, AE for Armed Forces Europe or AP for Armed Forces Pacific.

  5. Though the ZIP code follows the same formatting, the additional four-number code is a requirement for delivery.

How to write an international address

The formatting for addresses will vary between countries so be sure to check for the specific requirements before mailing a package internationally. Below are the steps for writing an international address for most European countries:

  1. Write the recipient's name on the first line.

  2. On the second line, write the building number and street name. If applicable, this is where you would write the name of the house. This is more common in rural areas where addresses are replaced with the name of the estate. If an estate name is used, the following line would need the building number and/or the street name (In many cases where an estate name is given, the street name is sufficient).

  3. The following line should list the town or city.

  4. On the next line, you will need to write the name of the county. This is superfluous in major cities but necessary for more rural areas. The abbreviation for "county" is Co. and should be placed before the proper name of the county.

  5. The following line should contain the postal code.

  6. The final line of the address should have the country's name.

Related: How To End a Letter

Additional tips

Here are some additional tips for writing an address and sending a letter:

Place stamps at the top right

Stamps should be placed in the top, right-hand corner of the envelope. Standard, one-ounce letters that are being shipped within the United States need just one stamp. However, additional stamps will be required for letters and packages that weigh more than one ounce.

Use the full zip code

If you want to improve the chances that the letter will make it to its destination quickly, you should use the five-digit ZIP code plus the four additional numbers that are specific to the area. To format, write the ZIP code with a hyphen afterward and then the four additional numbers will immediately follow that.

Write legibly

Make sure that your writing is legible. The Postal Service suggests writing in all capital letters and black ink. Additionally, avoid using fonts that are difficult to read.

Include only the address info

Refrain from adding additional text below the last line of the address. The Postal Service uses automatic processing machines to scan the envelopes and you could delay your letter's delivery by confusing the machine.

Use the correct abbreviations

You will need to use abbreviations for navigational directions, roadways and unit numbers. For example, you should use:

  • ST for Street

  • BLVD for Boulevard

  • PKWY for Parkway

  • LN for Lane

  • DR for Drive

  • RD for Road

  • N for North, E for East, S for South, W for West and so on

  • APT for Apartment

  • STE for Suite

Use commas where appropriate

When writing an address out in a letter or email, you will need to use commas to separate the name from the address, the street address from the city and the city from the state. For example:

  • Robert Robertson, 1234 NW Bobcat Lane, St. Robert, MO 65584-5678

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Here are some examples of properly formatted addresses:

Regular address

This is an example of a regular address:

Suzy Queue
4455 Landing Lange, APT 4
Louisville, KY 40018-1234

Business address

Here is an example of an address for someone within a company:

ATTN: Dennis Menees, CEO
Global Co.
90210 Broadway Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37011-5678

Military address

Here's an example of how to format a military address:

SGT Miranda McAnderson
6543 N 9th Street
APO, AA 33608-1234

International address

Though the specific requirements will vary depending on the country, here is an example of how to format a European address:

Henry Hernandez
Notting Estate
123 Notting Lane

Frequently asked questions

For letters with a U.S. address, does a comma go between the state and ZIP code?

No. When you write letters with a U.S. address, write out the state abbreviation, add a space and insert the ZIP code immediately, including the five-letter ZIP code, a dash and the four-letter extension if applicable.

What if I write an address in the middle of a sentence?

If you include an address in the middle of a sentence in the body of a letter, you can include it all in one line rather than breaking up the different sections onto different lines. For example, imagine you want to include the address of a meeting in a letter. You can say something like "The meeting will take place at 123 Cherry St., Boulder, CO 80304-0401, so be sure to arrange adequate transportation."

What are some additional abbreviations you may see in an address?

Consider the following abbreviations you may use when writing an address:

  • AVE for Avenue

  • SKWY for Skyway

  • RTE for Route

  • PL for Place

  • CSWY for Causeway

  • ANX for Annex

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