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How to Address a Letter
Last Updated: July 28, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Tami Claytor and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Tami Claytor is an Etiquette Coach, Image Consultant, and the Owner of Always Appropriate Image and Etiquette Consulting in New York, New York. With over 20 years of experience, Tami specializes in teaching etiquette classes to individuals, students, companies, and community organizations. Tami has spent decades studying cultures through her extensive travels across five continents and has created cultural diversity workshops to promote social justice and cross-cultural awareness. She holds a BA in Economics with a concentration in International Relations from Clark University. Tami studied at the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm and the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she earned her Image Consultant Certification. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 838,047 times.
Whether you’re sending a personal or business letter, you want to make sure you’re addressing it correctly so it arrives to its recipient. Additionally, you likely want to avoid accidentally offending your recipient by using the wrong title. Fortunately, addressing a letter correctly is a simple process. All you need is your name and address, your recipient’s preferred title, and your recipient's name and address.
Writing an Address on an Envelope
- Tyler Hamilton
- 123 Scenic Drive
- Houston, TX 77007
- If you’re writing to a couple, provide both of their names unless they prefer to be addressed as Mr. and Mrs.
- For a family, write out the family name for a casual letter, such as “The LaCour Family.” If you’re sending a formal letter to a family, write the parents on the first line with their titles, then write the children’s names on the line below the parents. You might write, “Mr. Micah and Ms. Sarah Smith” on the first line and “Callie, Mindy, and Seth” on the second line.
- You might write, “University of Houston” or “Bayou Enterprises.”
- As an example, you’d write “Laurel Avenue” rather than “Laurel Ave.” in a business letter or formal.
- If you’re writing a personal letter , it’s okay to write “Hamilton St.” or “Liberty Ln.”
- You might write: 123 Liberty Lane Apt. 3. or 555 Laurel Avenue Suite 44.
- For instance, you'd write, "Orange, TX 77630."
Tip: Each zip code has an extra 4-digit code that comes after it. You can find the extra 4 digits by typing the zip code into the USPS website. If you write these digits on your envelope, your letter will arrive at its destination faster.
- You might write, “USA” or “UNITED KINGDOM.”
- If you’re mailing a letter internationally, use an international stamp for correct postage.
Choosing the Right Title for Your Recipient
- For instance, you’d write Ms. Veronica Johnson or Miss Alyson Meyer.
Tip: If you're writing a casual letter, you typically don't need to worry about using titles.
- You’d write, “Mr. Todd Smith.”
- You might write, "Dear Lisa Jensen."
Variation: Some people who are gender neutral prefer to use the title Mx. Use Mx. if you know the person you're writing to prefers this title.
- You might write “Dr. Ashley Matthews and Mr. Sam Matthews,” or “Honorable Kennedy Jones.”
Tip: If you aren’t sure about someone’s title, it’s okay to refer to them by a higher title to be on the safe side. For instance, let’s say you’re writing a letter to a college professor. It’s okay to use “Dr.” as their title even if you’re not sure they have a doctorate.
- You might write, “Dear Human Resources Manager” if you’re applying for a job. If you aren’t sure there is a human resources manager, you could write, “To Whom It May Concern.”
Variation: You might also use the name of the department you’re writing to if you're not sure about the recipient's name or their job title.
Formatting the Top of a Formal Letter
- When addressing a casual letter to a friend or loved one, it’s alright to use a shortened form of your given name or a nickname, such as “Chuck” or “Shorty.”
- Some versions of the classic business letter call for the sender’s name to go in the signature at the bottom of the letter rather than at the top of the return address. Both formats are acceptable—go with whichever one you prefer.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
Tip: Feel free to put your formal title before your first name if you’re a doctor, elected official, or member of the clergy. In this case, you would write, “The Reverend Ichabod Sneed” instead of just, “Ichabod Sneed.”
- You can also put your official title or position on a separate line below your employer's name if you think it will be helpful to your recipient.
Variation: If you've decided to wait until the signature to give your name, the name of your company or business will go on the first line of the sender's address.
- Don't forget to include your apartment or office number after your street address, if applicable, as in, "2529 Cypress Row, Apt. 5D."
- Your address line lets your recipient know where you’re writing from, and also gives them a precise location to which they can address a letter of their own if they wish to write you back.
- Unlike the city and state, the state and zip code should be separated using only a space: "Santa Carla, California 95000."
- If you want to provide both your work and personal phone numbers, put the second number on a new line and use the prefixes “Work:” and “Cell:” to make it clear which is which.
- There’s no need to give your phone or email if you’re writing a message you don’t necessarily expect to get a reply to, such as a letter to the editor or a complaint to one of your local politicians.
- If you composed your letter over the course of multiple days, use the date on which you completed it.
- While it's not strictly necessary, including the date places your letter within a certain time frame, which can be helpful if it contains time-sensitive information.
- If your recipient is female and doesn't have a formal title, be sure to use her preferred mode of address (“Ms.”, “Mrs.”, or “Miss”) to avoid seeming presumptuous. If you’re not sure what she ordinarily goes by, the safest choice is always “Ms.”  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Double-check the spelling of the person’s name to make sure you get it right. Misspelling someone’s name could be perceived as negligent at best and disrespectful at worst.
- Keep in mind that you’ll only need to incorporate a title line if your reason for writing has something to do with your recipient’s position or occupation.
Tip: If you don’t know the person’s formal title, simply substitute the name of the department or division in which they work.
- This line isn’t reserved exclusively for the names of companies and businesses. It can also be used to institutions, such as, “The University of Alabama” or “Hollingsworth Museum of North London.”
- Look back over your address lines before mailing your letter to ensure that they’re correct. If you happen to get the street name or postal code wrong, your letter may not get where it needs to go.
- When addressing an international letter, tack on a final line with the name of the country written in all capital letters.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
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- No punctuation is required in any part of the various addresses in your letter, aside from commas separating the names of cities and states and at the end of your salutation and closing. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 0
- Professional emails and formal letters sent as digital attachments should follow the same format as traditional handwritten letters. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 1
- Make sure the addresses printed on the envelope match the ones you listed inside your letter. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://www.usps.com/ship/letters.htm
- ↑ https://wmich.edu/writing/rules/addresses
- ↑ https://www.today.com/home/how-address-envelope-t156576
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/professional_technical_writing/basic_business_letters/index.html
- ↑ https://nmu.edu/writingcenter/parts-business-letter
- ↑ https://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/repository/files/business-and-professional-writing/business_letter_handout-major-rev.pdf
- ↑ https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/business-communication/how-to-write-a-formal-business-letter/1/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/business-letters/
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/business-letter-format/
- ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/businessletter/
- ↑ http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/repository/files/business-and-professional-writing/business_letter_handout-major-rev.pdf
About This Article
To address a letter, first put your first and last name in the upper left hand corner of the page. If you’re sending the letter as part of your job, include the name of your company on the second line. Then, list your street address on the next line, followed by your city, state, and zip code under that. If your letter is work-related, include your email and/or phone number on the next line. Next, skip a line and write the date. Skip another line and write the recipient’s full name. For a business letter, include the recipient’s job title on the next line, followed by the name of their company on the line under that. Finally, write the recipient’s address on the following two lines. To learn more about formatting salutations, keep scrolling! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Address a Letter: Addressing a Letter 101
Table of Contents
How to write an address on a letter in 4 steps, letter address format examples, how to write a certified letter, how to address a letter conclusion.
Addressing a letter is one of the first and most important steps in letter writing. A clearly written address means your letter is more likely to arrive with the correct recipient.
If you don’t know how to address a letter, you’re in luck because it’s a straightforward process once you know what to include and how to format it.
In this article, we’ll cover how to address a letter in four simple steps, and we’ll share some examples of letter formats so you can see how it’s done.
Letters are still a popular form of communication today, especially for important information and requests, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to address a letter. We’ve condensed it down to four easy steps.
Where Do I Write an Address in a Letter?
The first thing you should write in a formal or professional letter is your address at the top of the page. You can write it on the left or the right side of the page, depending on which format you intend to use in your letter.
When using a block format letter, you will need to align everything to the left. Write your address, then the date you’re writing the letter, and then add your recipient’s address all on the left. You’ll find a lot of businesses use this format in their formal letters.
If you are using an indented paragraph format in your letter, align your address and the date to the right. Start your recipient’s address on the line below the date, and align it to the left.
You should always align the receiver’s address on the left because it helps if you want to use a windowed envelope to send your business letter. The window should line up perfectly with where the receiver’s address is so you won’t need to type or write out their address on the envelope.
For personal and informal letter writing, both addresses are optional. If you want to include them, it is common to use the formatting style from the indented paragraph format when writing a personal letter. You’ll still need to include the address on the envelope so it reaches the right destination, though.
What Should I Include When Addressing a Letter?
When you address a letter to someone, you need to include the correct information on both the letterhead and the envelope to ensure it reaches the right person.
Your address should include the following information:
Your full name or company name
The street address, including building number or name
The city, state, and zip code
You should include the following information in your recipient’s address:
Their full name
Their job title
The company name
You’ll need to include the recipient’s job title and company name if you are writing a formal or business letter where it is being sent to the company they work for. If you’re not sure of their job title, you can call the company and ask for that information. Your letter will look more professional if you have done research to ensure the details are correct.
If you’re writing your recipient’s address on the envelope rather than using a windowed envelope, the job title isn’t necessary because that address is for the postal service to use. The individual who processes mail for the business you're writing to should be able to identify the right person to give the letter to.
What Abbreviations Can I Use in an Address?
You don’t always need to write street addresses out in full when you are addressing a letter. USPS has a list of abbreviations you can use when writing an address. Postal services are familiar with abbreviations, so you don’t need to worry about them preventing your letter from being delivered to the correct address.
Here are some of the most common suffix abbreviations you should familiarize yourself with:
You can find more abbreviations for other address suffixes on the USPS website if you don’t see the one you need on our list.
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When to Add a Return Address
Postal services use a return address to return your letter to you if they cannot deliver it to the receiver’s address on the envelope. If you want to ensure they send the letter back to you after a failed delivery, include your address on the envelope.
With USPS reporting that they deliver 421.4 million pieces of mail on average per day, it’s a good idea to include a return address in case any mistakes happen.
You can either include a return address on the back of the envelope or on the front, in the upper left-hand corner. Just make sure it’s clear that the address is a return or sender’s address so the postal service doesn’t confuse it with the recipient’s address.
Readability is one of the most important parts of writing an address. The information should be correct, but if the postal service cannot read it, they might not deliver the letter. You can improve the readability by writing in block capitals if you’re handwriting and following a specific format.
We’ve provided some formatting examples of how to address a letter so you can see what a well-formatted, readable address looks like.
Miss Jenny Smith
79 Blane Street
Saint Louis, MO 63108
Mr. Chris Jones
133 Oak Way
Omaha, NE 68102
Mrs. Sophie Doe
Director of Marketing
Big Marketing Business
1999 Ottis Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Certified letters are mail that needs to be signed for by the recipient to prove they have received the letter. The most common use of certified letters is by financial institutions for demand letters informing the receiver they owe the company a sum of money.
Businesses can also use a certified letter for legal mail, sensitive documents, or if a company simply wants to send you some information and they need to be sure you received it.
If you need to send an important letter to a company, you can use the certified letter service. The service costs more than standard postage, so ask for the price and options at the post office when you’re sending your letter.
Sample of a Certified Letter
As a certified letter is a type of postal service and not a specific type of letter, your certified letter could be about anything of significance that needs a proof of delivery. We’ve provided a sample certified letter to give you an idea of how to format your letter so it looks professional and achieves the results you’re hoping for.
CERTIFIED MAIL - PROOF OF DELIVERY REQUIRED
Vista City Library
3139 Carriage Court
Vista, CA 92083
February 7th, 2022
Miss Janet Doe
3958 Vernon Street
RE: UNPAID LIBRARY FEES
Dear Miss Jane Doe,
We have reviewed your Vista City Library account, and you have an outstanding amount of $200 for late fees.
I can see there are several books still checked out on your account, which is why the fees are increasing each month. I request you return the books and pay the outstanding balance on your account no later than February 21st, 2022.
You can make your payment in person at the library using cash or credit card. Alternatively, you can access your account to make a payment using our online system, which you can access from our website. If you are not sure of your login details, please contact our customer service team.
If we receive no payment by the date stated in this letter, we will serve a final notice and proceed with the legal collection process, as stated in our terms and conditions.
Please disregard this letter if you have already made the payment on your account.
Mr. John Smith
As this example is of a demand-style letter, we have used a letter format called the simplified style. The key feature of a simplified style format is that it includes a subject line under the recipient’s address. It’s good to include a subject line in a demand letter as it tells the reader what the letter is about straight away.
Addressing letters should be easy for you now if you’re following the steps detailed in this article. There are several ways to format the addresses and some helpful abbreviations for when you’re writing the address on the envelope.
Don’t forget to make sure the recipient’s street address details are correct if you want the letter to arrive at the correct location. You can always use an address checker online if you’re not completely sure of the details.
We hope this article helps you with any letters you have to send.
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