Punctuation is Not Allowed in Mailing Addresses

May 4, 2010 at 12:17 am 8 comments

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.

Placement

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

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Sources: US Postal Service, Canada Post

Entry filed under: Around The House, Be Efficient, Demystified, ProTips. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jerome cukier  |  May 4, 2010 at 6:59 am

    speaking of punctuation and addresses, I recently learned that gmail ignores dots in email addresses…
    so chadupton@gmail.com and chad.upton@gmail.com and c.h.a.d.u.p.t.o.n@gmail.com are all pointing to the same email address.

    Reply
    • 2. James  |  May 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Yea, you can also add “+anything” to the end of your GMail address and it will also ignore it. So, say you sign up for the Broken Secrets newsletter. You could use the email address ‘youremail+brokensecrets@gmail.com’ Then if you get spammail addressed to that email, you’ll know where its coming from. The dot thing is also useful in signing up for something (beta codes, voting, ect…) multiple times.

      Reply
      • 3. Chad Upton  |  May 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm

        Thanks guys, these are great secrets. I knew the dot one because I used to get a lot of mail to an address that was the same as mine, except the sender was putting a dot in — so I looked into that. I never knew about the +.

        For the record… I will never give or sell your email addresses to anyone else. Also, chadupton@gmail.com is an example only, that is not my email address, so don’t get mad when I don’t reply to it.

  • 4. oddstray  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    It’s good information for the US and maybe Canada. For the rest of the world …

    There’s a comment on here that says, “For the record… all email addresses are private”

    In fact, the Internet is not private. Never has been. Never will be. The only way to keep your content – not your email address – private is to use encryption down at the user level.

    Reply
    • 5. Chad Upton  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm

      No maybe about it, the information is perfectly good for Canada, you’ll see that Canada Post is more strict than the USPS, so we can take some lessons from them. It’s pretty good information for the UK too actually.

      Reply
  • 6. Marisol Ly  |  May 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    If I had a penny for each time I came to brokensecrets.com.. Great read!

    Reply
  • 7. JimmerJammer  |  April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I wonder what is special about the return address? I used to work at that Tim’s.

    Reply
  • 8. Don V Nielsen  |  September 20, 2013 at 7:09 am

    This is a late comment. However. Saying “no punctuation is allowed” is not entirely accurate. The USPS guidelines recommend all uppercase and no punctuation. This adds consistency to the formatted address on the piece for the benefit of the delivery person. The important information needed for sorting mail is in the barcode, so scanning the address block has become less important.

    Reply

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