How to Properly Address an Envelope on a Card
How to Properly Address Christmas, Birthday, and Holiday Cards
Below is a quick and easy lesson on addressing an envelope or card for Christmas or any other holiday or occasion. The rules are easy to remember, and by following them you can avoid a major grammar faux pas.
Don't Do This!
The Biggest Mistake in Addressing a Card Is Using an Apostrophe in the Last Name of the Recipient
Proper Address Labels for a Variety of Situations
Correct Form of Address
Married, informal address
Jane and John Doe
Married, informal address, she uses maiden name
Jane Kelly and John Doe
Married, formal address
Mr. and Mrs. Doe
Married, she uses maiden name
Mr. John Doe and Ms. Jane Kelly
Married, she uses maiden name, with children
The Doe/Kelly Family or The Doe and Kelly Family
Unmarried, living together
Mr. John Doe and Ms. Jane Kelly
When she outranks husband (elected office or military officer)
Senator Jane Kelly and Mr. John Doe
When she outranks husband (professional or educational degrees)
Dr. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe
Both doctors (Ph.D. or Medical)
Drs. Jane and John Doe or Dr. Jane Doe and Dr. John Doe
Both doctors (Ph.D. or Medical), she uses maiden name
Dr. Jane Kelly and Dr. John Doe
The Honorable Kelly and Mr. John Kelly
The Biggest Mistake When Addressing a Card or Envelope
The biggest mistake that I see when writing an address on a card is the improper use of the apostrophe. Apostrophes show possession. You are addressing the entire family (a plural), not something they possess.
Some might say that you could be referring to the house when you use an apostrophe in a label, e.g., The Edmondson's [house]. The problem is that you don't write to a house, but to those living in the house. Your best bet is no apostrophe.
Here is a basic example of an uncomplicated address:
The Correct Way to Address an Envelope!
Addressing an Envelope: Names Ending in S, SH, CH, X, or Z
It becomes a bit more complicated when you have names ending in "s, sh, ch, x or z". In these cases you add an "es" to refer to the entire family.
Remember, The Vix's or Jones's is incorrect!
If Adding an "es" to the End of the Last Name, Then You Can Use "Family" Instead
If adding an "es" to the end of the family name sounds awkward, then you can address the letter to "The Jones Family."
The Correct Way to Write a PO Box Address
Addressing an envelope to a PO Box is simple. Do the same thing you would do for a home address, except put the PO Box number where the street address would go. Here's an example of a PO Box address label.
How to Address a Card for a Doctor or Reverend
If you need to address a card or envelope to a doctor or reverend and you prefer to address them formally, the following is correct: Mr. and Dr. Walker
How to Address an Envelope with Multiple Last Names
Many women keep their maiden names after they are married, so many families now have more than one last name.
- Typically, it doesn't matter whose name comes first on the envelope except when one spouse "outranks" the other—then the person with the higher rank should be listed first.
How to Address an Envelope for a Couple With Different Last Names and Children
Addressing a Card for a Couple That Does Not Have Children
More Helpful Tips for Addressing Envelopes
The United States Postal Service gives the following guidelines:
- Other than the ZIP + 4 code, punctuation may be omitted from the address block.
- City names must be spelled out completely.
- Place one space between the city, state, and ZIP. (Two spaces are preferred between state abbreviation and ZIP.)
- Always put the address and the postage on the same side of your mailpiece.
- On a letter, the address should be parallel to the longest side.
- Use capital or block letters
- At least 10-point type
- Simple type fonts
- Left justified
- Black ink on white, or light, paper
- No reverse type (white printing on a black background)
- If your address appears inside a window, make sure there is at least 1/8-inch clearance around the address. Sometimes parts of the address slip out of view behind the window and mail processing machines can’t read the address.
- If you are using address labels, make sure you don’t cut off any important information. Also, make sure your labels are on straight. Mail processing machines have trouble reading crooked or slanted information.
- Military Addresses: Overseas locations must contain APO or FPO designations along with two character "state" abbreviation of AE, AP or AA, (AE is used for armed forces in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Canada; AP is for the Pacific; and AA is used for the Americas excluding Canada) plus the ZIP (e.g., APO AE 09001-4567); domestic locations use only the approved city name, as listed in the City State file, and the state abbreviation and ZIP.
There is no use for an apostrophe in address labels. For more information about addressing your envelopes visit the U.S Postal Service website.
Questions & Answers
How do you address someone who is divorced twice and the kids use the first husband's last name but the mother has the second husband's last name?
In this case, you can have a blended name, e.g., The Smith/Johnson FamilyHelpful 2
Is it improper to add pet names? If it's proper, how should they be included? Please show an example. Do you list children's names? If so, show an example.
Normally, pets are not included on an envelope. However, if you know how much the recipient loves their pet and you feel they would like you to add it, then you can. I would include it as follows: Jane and Fido Brown
As for children's names, you don't need to add them. I would add "family" instead, e.g., The Brown Family rather than Jane, John, Jim, and Jesse Brown
Can I just put Brown Family instead of adding an S on the last name on the envelope?
Yes, it's fine to say "The Brown Family". I prefer to add the article "the", but you don't have to.Helpful 2
How would you address cards to an unmarried couple living together? The woman is divorced and uses her maiden name and has children that live in the home with a different last name.
If you have a household with:
1. Jane Smith
2. Jane Smith's children with the last name Brown
3. John Park
I would address the card either:
The Smith, Brown, and Park Family
John Park, Jane Smith, and Family
How do you write a return address label on an envelope? Is it "The Brown's" because it's our house?
No, the return address is to your family not to your house. The return address should be "The Browns".