How to address an envelope: a 3 min tutorial for teens and tweens
If you ever plan to be an adult, you’re going to need to know how to address an envelope correctly. Good envelope etiquette really makes you look like you know what you’re doing to the person who receives your letter and, of course, the main reason for correspondence etiquette is so the post office can actually get your letter to the person you’re intending.
My name is Sydney Dunn. I’m an etiquette instructor and here’s the simplest way I know to teach you how to address an envelope. I’ll also go through a few of the variations like how to address an envelope to an apartment, PO box, or international address. And lastly, I’ll mention what you need to remember if you’re addressing an envelope for more formal purposes.
The recipient’s address goes front and center on the envelope.
1st line: The person’s full name or the name of the business.
2nd line: Street address (meaning house number + street name).
3rd line: City + comma + state + zip code
Most times I try to center it because I think it looks better, but some days I just want to do it the easy way and I line it all up on the left.
In the top left, you write your address, the person sending the letter. It’s called a return address because if, for some reason, the post office can’t deliver the letter to the recipient, they will return it back to you at this address. You format it exactly the same as the recipient address, just maybe a little bit smaller.
Don’t forget to stamp it! The post office will not deliver mail unless you’ve paid them to do so. And you do that by purchasing a stamp. The stamp goes in the upper right corner.
And remember, if you stuff your envelope really full, if it’s kind of heavy, or if it’s a larger envelope, it may take more than one stamp. If you’re unsure how much postage it needs, just run in the post office, they can weigh it and tell you exactly how much it takes.
And that’s it! Your basic envelope… now, there are a few other situations you’ll probably run in to at some point in your life so let’s cover those real fast:
Simply add “Apartment or Apt” + the apartment number after the street name.
You write “PO Box” + the box number where you would have written the street address.
If you need to make sure you letter makes it specifically to Elizabeth Smith at Westover University, you should write her name above the business name.
You can include the word attention or the abbreviation “ATTN:” if you wish.
If you’re sending an international letter, the only thing you do differently, is add a country line below the recipient’s address AND the return address.
You’ll also need to buy an international stamp. They’re a bit more expensive, but your letter has a longer way to travel, so that’s fair, right?!
If you’re sending something that needs to be more formal like a wedding invitation, it’s better to write everything out and not use abbreviations. So instead of using “St.” you write out the word “Street.” Same for “Post Office Box” instead of PO Box, and “California” instead of C.
This can sometimes make your third line fairly long, in that case I normally put the zip code on its own line.
And for formal invitations, I also like to put the return address on the back flap. I think it makes the front look more polished.
Also, make sure you’re capitalizing where you should. And just so you know, the postal service actually prefers all caps and no punctuation at all but I, personally, think it looks better to the recipient with standard capitalization. But that’s a call you can make.
Each season, the students in my cotillion program practice addressing envelopes. Envelopes are needed either when sending a thank you note or when mailing an RSVP to the cotillion ball. I think it’s a good skill to know and teens and tweens don’t get much practice addressing envelopes and mailing letters these days until they become an adult.
I’m a big proponent of teaching kids in my etiquette classes the mechanics and then having them put it into practice so they’re familiar with this life skill. Cotillion classes are a great way for kids to learn manners, etiquette, and social dance skills to build socially confident adults.
Now, I know that’s a lot of info in a short amount of time, so I’m sure you’re probably sitting there saying “Sydney, I really wish you had all this in an easy PDF guide that I can refer back to anytime I need.” 😉 Well, I made one for you. And you can get it for free at sdetiquette.com/envelope.