Punctuation is Not Allowed in Mailing Addresses
Whether it’s a personal or business letter, every piece of mail I receive has the address formatted differently. Some even have the return and destination addresses formatted differently.
Since the post office has very strict requirements for addressing a letter, they should all be exactly the same. The post office guidelines are recommended for fastest delivery and I’ve compiled a list of rules that are the most surprising or commonly abused.
Since most of my readers are in North America, I’ve compared the requirements from the US Postal Service and Canada Post — they’re very similar and they contain good practices that are applicable to sending mail in most places.
Mail is typically sorted by a machine, but if the machine can’t determine the address then it will be dropped in a bin for a human to sort it. Most of the requirements are design to make it easy for the machine to understand where you’re trying to send your letter.
No Punctuation Allowed
One rule that will surprise most people: no punctuation is allowed. I know your third grade teacher said you should put a comma between the city and the state, and maybe she was right at the time, but that’s not right anymore. Don’t use periods either, using punctuation will only slow the mail down. It’s going to be a tough habit to break, I know. There is one exception, and that is when the name of the City, Street or Town contains punctuation, such as an apostrophe (for example: St John’s).
State Abbreviations are Only 2 Letters
States and Provinces should be written with their standard 2 character abbreviations. Since no punctuation is allowed, using the proper abbreviation is important for the sorting machine to recognize the State or Province. Canada Post requires that two spaces are placed between the State/Province and the Postal Code, this also helps the machine find the State/Province. Click here for a complete list of proper Canadian and American abbreviations.
The return address should go in the top left corner (although Canada Post also allows it on the back of the envelope at the top). The destination address should go in the middle of the envelope, left justified. Capital letters should be used since they are easier for the machines to read (not a US requirement, but still recommended). City, State and Postal Code should be on the same line. If mailing internationally, the Country should be added on its own line.
These are not my rules, they come from the US and Canada post offices. You’ll find links to the a complete list of requirements in the sources.
PS – That’s not my real address, don’t send mail there… seriously. However, both addresses are special. ;)
Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton
Follow @BrokenSecrets on Twitter