How to Properly Address an Envelope for 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.
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
Don't Do This!
The biggest mistake in addressing a card is using an apostrophe in the last name of the recipient.
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:
Addressing an Envelope: Names Ending in S, SH, CH, X, or Z
It becomes a bit more complicated when you have names ending in the letters 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.
Note: 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
What's correct: family and last name or last name and then the word family?
I prefer last name and the word family, e.g., The Brown Family
Would it be appropriate to put "John, Jane and Doe Family: or "John, Jane Doe and Family" on an envelope?
The first of the two would be better, but I think "The Doe Family" is the best.Helpful 3
Would it be correct to address the envelope as: Mr. Charles & Dr. Mary Jones?
Usually you would address the person that "outranks" the other first, e.g. Dr. Mary Jones and Mr. Charles Jones. The other option is Dr. and Mr. Jones.Helpful 7
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 5
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 4