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How to Properly Address an Envelope for a Card

Robin is an educator and works in online publishing. Her mission is to remove apostrophes in address labels.

Learn how to address envelopes with proper grammar, and make sure you follow the U.S. Postal Service's guidelines.

Learn how to address envelopes with proper grammar, and make sure you follow the U.S. Postal Service's guidelines.

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

SituationCorrect 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

A judge

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:

The correct way to address an envelope!

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 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!

Addressing a card:  When a name ends in an S, add an "es" to the end.  Do not add an apostrophe.

Addressing a card: When a name ends in an S, add an "es" to the end. Do not add an apostrophe.

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."

Another option is to not create a plural in the name but use the word "Family" instead.

Another option is to not create a plural in the name but use the word "Family" instead.

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 an envelope with a PO Box.

How to address an envelope with a PO Box.

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 to a doctor.

How to address an envelope to a doctor.

The proper way to address a reverend on an envelope.

The proper way to address a reverend on an envelope.

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 an envelope for a couple with differing last names and children.

Addressing an envelope for a couple with differing last names and children.

Addressing a Card for a Couple That Does Not Have Children

Addressing an envelope for a couple without children.

Addressing an envelope for a couple without 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.

Just Remember:

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

Question: Do you add "the" to a family name?

Answer: Yes, I would add a "the" to the beginning of the family name, e.g., The Johnsons.

Question: Do you use periods on Christmas cards?

Answer: When addressing a card, you would use a period behind abbreviations, e.g., Mr. I suggest using punctuation on messages, e.g., Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday!

Question: Would it be correct to address the envelope as: Mr. Charles & Dr. Mary Jones?

Answer: 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.

Question: 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?

Answer: In this case, you can have a blended name, e.g., The Smith/Johnson Family

Question: Can I just put Brown Family instead of adding an S on the last name on the envelope?

Answer: Yes, it's fine to say "The Brown Family". I prefer to add the article "the", but you don't have to.

Question: Would it be appropriate to put "John, Jane and Doe Family: or "John, Jane Doe and Family" on an envelope?

Answer: The first of the two would be better, but I think "The Doe Family" is the best.

Question: How do you properly address an envelope if a couple is married and has a child of their own, as well as another child from a previous marriage?

Answer: I would address the envelope:

Jane, John, and Mary Smith and Lisa Brown

(Mary and Lisa being the children)

Question: When sending a Get Well Card for a judge who is a friend, how does one address the envelope?

Answer: The proper way to address a judge is, The Honorable (Last Name). If the judge is someone that you would consider a very close friend/family member and is not a formal person, you probably could get away with using their first and last name.

However, it might be a good idea to err on the more conservative side and address them as stated above. It is a sign of respect that they likely deserve.

Question: 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.

Answer: 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

Question: Do I write "The Millers" or "The Miller's" on an envelope?

Answer: "The Millers" is correct. You do not need an apostrophe.

Question: 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.

Answer: 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

or

John Park, Jane Smith, and Family

Question: How do you write a return address label on an envelope? Is it "The Brown's" because it's our house?

Answer: No, the return address is to your family not to your house. The return address should be "The Browns".

Question: What's correct, "Palacio's Family" or "Family Palacio" when addressing an envelope on a card?

Answer: I would say, "The Palacio Family".

Question: How do you address the envelope of a card to a 15 year old boy?

Answer: I would address the envelope with his first and last name.

Question: When addressing a class reunion, should labels include the lady's maiden name?

Answer: If she is married and has taken on her husband's name, you don't need to include her maiden name. However, if you'd like to, I don't think that's a problem either.

Question: How do I address a card for a married woman?

Answer: It depends if you feel she would like to be addressed as a Mrs. You have two options: Mrs. Jane Smith or Jane Smith. Either works.

Question: What's correct: family and last name or last name and then the word family?

Answer: I prefer last name and the word family, e.g., The Brown Family

Thoughts, Comments, or Questions?

Hannah Cuellar on November 12, 2018:

Hello! I am in of help. How would I address a card for a married couple (John and Jane Doe) and John's mother in law Janet Smith? Would it be:

Jane and John Doe and Janet Smith?

Thanks!

Billy Urquhart on September 28, 2018:

What is the proper way to address an envelope to a wife of a friend I'd birthday card she is married

michelle on August 20, 2018:

Hi-

What is the appropriate grammar to use when addressing an envelope to the parents and their child? For example,

Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and David or

Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and David Doe?

SONYA ADAMS on July 16, 2018:

Good day Robin, It is correct to say: Mr and Mrs Adams, or, Mr. and Mrs. James Adams.

i have been told today that the second one is the correct way ( in English way ), but, I really don't like it. Could you confirm which one is the best ?

Thanks

WL on June 27, 2018:

The use of the apostrophe + s or just the apostrophe if the name ends in an -s- is actually traditionally correct. What is incorrect is the erroneous explanation above referring to someone's "house". In fact, the apostrophe refers to the "household", i.e. the people living in that house of that family name. So what is implied when you write "The Kennedy's" but not spelt out is the Kennedy's household, i.e. the family of the Kennedies.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 19, 2017:

So, the question is: How do you address a card when you have been remarried, but you have children with your former name.

I would address the names on the card as your new last name as well as your children's name: The Smith/ Johnson Family

NICOLE on December 19, 2017:

How do you address an envelope when the recipient recently remarried and took her new husbands last name but her children live with them and they have her ex-husbands last name.

V on December 03, 2017:

Hi there, I am divorce and re-married. I have a son from my previous marriage, and every time I send out Christmas cards I never know how to write our address labels. I kept my last married name and now have my new last name. I kept my last married name because me and my ex husband share a son. I always feel bad only using our new last name because I feel like my son would not feel included since he still has his dads (my ex) last name. Sorry, I know this is confusing! Any advice is so appreciated! Thank you.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 29, 2017:

I'm glad it was helpful, Sarah. :)

Sarah on November 29, 2017:

Thank you for your response! I like your suggestion :).

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 29, 2017:

Hi Sarah. Blended families can get tricky! Since your son is part of the family and he doesn't have your husband's last name, I would simplify it and address your cards "The Smith and Doe Family". I know your name is hyphenated, but I think this is fine. Personally, I think it's important that your son feels like his name is part of the family.

Sarah on November 28, 2017:

What about blended families? I'm actually wanting to get an address stamp made for our family. I'm recently remarried and chose to hyphenate my name-I kept my old married name because I want to share the last name of my son and took my new husband's name. It took a bit of convincing at first, but my husband understands that having the same last name as my son. Because of this we have my husband's last name (example John Doe), my last is hyphenated to have my husband and my son's last name (example Sarah Smith-Doe), and then my son's last name (example Sam Smith). So we all have a different last name. At some point, we might have a child together, so they'd take my husband's last name (example Ann Doe). Should we just use my husband and my first name? I wouldn't mind using the hyphen version on our stamp to include everyone's name (example Smith-Doe), but he's not keen on that because my hyphenated name includes my old married name. He's fine with just our first names, but I really want our whole family represented in the stamp. What's your recommendation? This is a tricky one for us and we can't see to come to an agreement. Thanks so much!!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 21, 2017:

HI Kim,

I would recommend either, "The Doe and Smith Family" or "John Smith and Jane and Sally Doe". Personally, when I address cards to families with multiple names, I use the first option.

Kim on November 16, 2017:

Hi! Thanks for this! I kept my maiden name when I married my husband, and we now have a new daughter that has my maiden name. I am proud of my last name, and I am proud that she has my last name. I am working on our Christmas card. What to do? Jane Doe, John Smith, and Sally Doe? Even though I'm repeating Doe twice? Or The Doe/Smiths even though there is only one Smith? Or The Doe/Smith Family? Or just first names? Jane, John, and Sally? Or can I try and merge the repeated Doe to be John Smith, Jane and Sally Doe? Haha so many options! Thanks!

Sara on July 17, 2017:

When it comes to filing labels and you come across the name (last name first), do you type is as:

Name of staff: Capt. John Cook

Filing label: COOK, John Capt. ? is this correct?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on August 19, 2016:

That address is correct, Bob.

bob on August 18, 2016:

But everything else is correct?

bob on August 18, 2016:

Please tell me is this correct?

Bob Greenfield

690 Hodge Drive, PMB 984

Duncan, SC 29334

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on August 17, 2016:

Hi Amy, I would address her in the married formal manner, e.g., Mrs. Jane Doe.

Amy on August 16, 2016:

How to properly address an invitation to a widow who's husband was a Reverand/ Preacher?

Brian Jana on June 17, 2016:

Jimmy Last Name estates

Female Name (Prep)

Any Address

Any State, Zip.

what does the (Prep) mean after the name coming from an fiancial institution?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on May 01, 2015:

H, Why don't you put your daughter's name on the return label? The tricky part is not the names, but the address. I assume you have different addresses.

H on May 01, 2015:

Divorced and confused! How should I do my daughters return labels for her graduation announce? I am recently remarried and need to include her step fathers name for his relatives?

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on November 19, 2014:

I've been writing out addresses on envelopes for years, but this taught me a lot. Thanks!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 19, 2013:

It's okay to just leave just your last name in the return address, although the USPS recommends your full name.

rsmallcomb on December 19, 2013:

Is it every okay to put only your last name in the return address area?

DAC on December 13, 2013:

2 spaces are preferred between state and zip code.

but, your examples don't show that.

details.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on June 26, 2012:

jneen29, I would address the card:

Mr. and Mrs. Doe

jneen29 on May 18, 2012:

How do address an invitation label when you don't know the wife's name, but you do know they have a wife?

Mr. John Doe and spouse?

Mr. John Doe and wife?

Mr. John Doe and guest?

louromano on March 20, 2012:

When addressing envelopes to the Williams family, should I use The Williams Family

Lisa W. on March 17, 2012:

Hi Robin,

Thank you so much for your GREAT site. I thought I was addressing right, but wasn't completely sure. Now I'm smug to know that everyone else was wrong! I am not even going to try and help them find the error of their ways. I am just happy to know that what I thought was right, was! Sincerely, Lisa in Las Vegas

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 21, 2011:

Hi Julie, thanks for the question! This is a hard one and I have been writing my cards all week and dealing with this issue. There are many families now that have two names; how do we address them correctly? Since it's your return label that you are wondering about, it is entirely up to you. However, I think the Smith/Price Family is a great way to do it. Happy Holidays!

Julie Price on December 21, 2011:

I have a question regarding the return labels for my cards. I kept my last name and my husband and I have a son. I just write The Smith Family even though my last name is Price. I am worried that if I send a card to someone at work who only knows me as Price they might not know who the card came from. I know I could solve this by singing my full name inside the card but that seems odd. Should I write The Smith/Price Family. I don't want it to come across that I am sensitive about people calling me by my maiden name because I'm not. I have just been too lazy to change it. I feel like this is a personal choice but wonder what etiquitte says or what other people in this situation usually do.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 18, 2011:

VROD, I'm so sorry for your loss. I would address the card, "Uncle John Smith" with obviously your Uncle's name.

VROD on December 18, 2011:

Im sending Christmas cards for my Uncle, we recently lost my Aunt last week, what is the proper way to write the closing?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 15, 2011:

Great question: How to address divorced families on a card? My advice would be to continue to say The Smith Family. Even though divorce has occurred, they are still a family - especially if the children are living at home or are in college. If the father has moved out and you want to send him a card, I would address it only to him. Once the children have their own addresses, I would send the cards to each individual person and no longer use the word "Family". Thanks for the question!

Patricia on December 15, 2011:

I have been sending my Christmas cards to families with children as: The Smith Family. What is the proper way to address it if you know the parents are now separated but the children are still living at home?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 14, 2011:

Hi Rita,

I can understand your frustration. Although their labeling is correct, it is a bit old-fashioned. I have a feeling it was addressed by someone thinking they were addressing the envelope properly. If you think about wedding invitations, this is a very common way to label. It probably would have been better to address the card, The Smith Family or The Smiths, but I doubt they were trying to offend you. Wishing you a very Happy Holidays!

Rita on December 14, 2011:

Our family received a Christmas card today addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Suzie(our daughter). These are not our real names by the way. Am I wrong to be insulted that my name was completely omitted? My husband thinks I am over reacting, but I think I have a valid complaint.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 30, 2011:

Shirely,

Yes that is correct. The Rev. and Mrs. John Doe is perfectly acceptable.

Thanks, Someone! ;)

Someone on November 18, 2011:

I just wanted to point out that it's cool how since 5 YEARS ago this post was made; and people are still commenting on this!

Shirely Gene on November 12, 2011:

Is it proper to address an envelope to ones pastor and wife: The Rev and Mrs. John Doe? Thanks for a most interesting website!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 08, 2011:

Hello, Asharp. You have a few choices with the surname English: The Englishes, Mr. and Mrs. English, or The English Family.

Cheers!

Asharp on November 07, 2011:

How would I address a letter to a family with the last name "English"?

SBHK from India on May 29, 2011:

i really didn't knew that i used to make lots of mistakes,thanks for correcting

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 29, 2011:

I agree, Randomcreative! I've had over 114,000 people visit this page. If only a quarter of them make the changes to address an envelope correctly, I am happy!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 29, 2011:

I am a grammar dork. Mistakes on basic communications like work memes and envelopes drives me CRAZY! It's sad that so many people don't know the information in this hub, but I know that it's true.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 19, 2011:

Hi Steve, your introduction sounds perfect. Congratulations to your daughter!

Steve on April 14, 2011:

How would I introduce my deceased wife on a paper to my child's Honor Society dinner. Is this correct? John Smith and the late Jane Smith? Thanks for any input.

Mohan Kumar from UK on April 04, 2011:

These are really useful hints and tips, Robin. I am loving the Grammar Mishaps series and am going to read them all. Voted up!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 04, 2011:

Hi Jerry,

Yes, if she is talking about multiple clients and their families, you would say, "my clients' families" or "my clients's families". (Either way is correct.) If she is talking about one client's family. She would say, "my client's family."

customenvelopes on January 10, 2011:

That apostrophe error is so widespread I wonder if the grammarians should simply change the rules! Thanks for a useful post, and an enjoyable read!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on January 05, 2011:

Hi Patricia,

I would just use the child's name, but either way is fine. Thanks for reading the Hub! Robin

Patricia on January 05, 2011:

I was wondering the correct way to address a card to a one year old child - or any child for that matter. Do we use Miss and Mister with their name, or do we just write the child's name by itself?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 17, 2010:

Amanda,

Thanks for the comment. Even though the Edmondsons may own the house, you are not writing the letter to the house. "The Edmondsons" is correct. ;) I also added a section to the Hub about addressing households with multiple last names. Great comment!

Rachel,

It is up to you if you want to put nicknames in a label. The postal service would probably rather you didn't. If you'd like to add "Aunt" or "Uncle" to the name, I'm sure that's fine.

Kelsey,

I added a PO Box section to my Hub if you'd like to find the answer there. Thanks for the comment!

kelsey on November 16, 2010:

I dont have a street address I have a PO Box how would I go about addressing it

Rachel on October 10, 2010:

You never answered Valerie's question.

valerie 21 months ago

what if it's a personal letter among family, can you put nicknames, do you have to put the last name?

Amanda on January 13, 2010:

You've mentioned that "The Edmondson's" would be incorrect unless you are referring to their house. However, since the house is owned (possessive) by the family/parents (plural), wouldn't "The Edmondsons' House" be the correct way to write this?

Also, do you have any recommendation for addressing casual cards and letters to families with multiple last names? Eg. John Smith, Mary Jones-Smith, and Billy and Sally Jones. The Smith/Jones Family? I'm having trouble finding information on this one!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 26, 2009:

Hi maryann, you are correct. It is still correct to address a card that way; however, I prefer to use both the woman and man's name. Either way is fine. Thanks for the comment.

MaryAnn on December 26, 2009:

I was taught that when addressing a card to anyone who is married woman this way: Mrs. John Doe, using the husband=s name not the wife's. Now I am told this is wrong or incorrect. How do you address your daughters card or letter correctly?

Thanks

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 21, 2009:

bdawkins, You don't use an appostrophe when you are addressing your last name. "Dawkins" is correct. Thanks for the question!

Jeff Williams, "The Williams Family" is correct.

Robin

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 21, 2009:

Gayla,

It depends on how formal you want your invitation. It is traditional and formal to write, "Mr. and Mrs. Jeri Bills and Family." However, this feels antiquated to me. I prefer, "Mr. and Mrs. Bills," or "The Bills Family."

Thanks!

Robin

Pollyannalana from US on December 08, 2009:

Good reading. If postage keeps going up at the same rate, soon we can just hand deliver, and simply say, "Here's yall's Christmas card!" That's what we say in the south, good chance we'd get some grub before leavin too.

bdawkins on December 04, 2009:

I am doing my return address labels for x-mas cards and with my last name ending in an s "Dawkins" should I use The Dawkins'?

jeff williams on November 29, 2009:

When addressing envelopes to the Williams family, should I use The Williams Family

VivBounty from Canada on October 16, 2009:

Years ago we used to receive Christmas cards addressed to

Mr. and Mrs. E. Jones and Fly, (Fly being short for family)

1 street name,

City, ST Country P0STC0DE

A friend called me asking who this fly was? I found it hysterical. Great hub as Christmas comes around again. I shall take note.

Gayla on May 09, 2009:

For invitations, which one of the following is best: Brian and Jeri Bills Family, Brian and Jeri Bills and Family, Mr. and Mrs. Brian Bills and Family, or Mr. and Mrs. Brian Bills Family? Do you really have to write The Bills Family?

Rene on December 28, 2008:

thanks for the guidelines, although I have to mention that back in the good ol'days one of my teachers told me about that "put" should be write we don't put we write, don't blame me, he was a very smart teacher.

valerie on December 20, 2008:

what if it's a personal letter among family, can you put nicknames, do you have to put the last name?

Annika on October 22, 2008:

Hello,

How do I make sure that a private letter I send to a company is not opened by a secretary but the person him/herself?

Do I write the name of the person first and the company name on the next line, or is there another even more safe way to secure that the letter is not opened by someone else?

Best regards,

Annika

Amber Jean from Allston, MA on May 20, 2008:

Love the grammar hubs :-) Thanks!

dafla on March 08, 2008:

Great hubs! I'm a grammar and spelling fanatic, having been a corporate secretary for many years. I'm glad to see someone else who is too.

RTC on February 21, 2008:

If you are addressing a wedding invitation to a couple, and the woman is a Judge, do you say Mr. Tim and Honorable Amy Smith, or just Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or something else?

Blogger Mom from Northeast, US on February 18, 2008:

Wonderful info! It's so funny how something like this generates so much interest. I actually have more trouble with the first line - making sure I don't offend any one in my husband's very large family. There are widows, divorced women, couples with different last names - I'm never sure I'm addressing their names correctly. I'm also surprised that it's recommended to use all capital letters - I guess it feels like shouting since that's what's conveyed when writing online. In any event, such great info - thanks for writing this! =)

Joni Solis from Kentwood, Louisiana on January 24, 2008:

Great informative hub. Thank you for making and posting it! I adding a link to it in my info CDs for my logo clients.

Andrea on December 19, 2007:

Happy Hoilidays! I'm still confused about names that end in a vowel. Names on my list this year end in y, i and o. What's the correct way to address when adding the s? Thank You!

Lorelei on December 12, 2007:

Hi Robin! I came across your article while surfing the net.I am still a little confused when it comes to addressing envelopes.Are you supposed to use all capital letters?With the "zip plus 4" are you supposed to write all 9 numbers together, spaced, or with a dash? Example: 123456789, 12345 6789, or 12345-6789.Also with P.O. boxes do you write PO BOX 123 or P.O. BOX 123?One more question, sorry :) Since I am overseas and I have family in America, how do I write out my 4th line? U.S.A, USA, UNITED STATES, or UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?Thanks to anyone who can help!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 10, 2007:

Hi Paula,

Addressing an envelope of a widow can be difficult. I think it would depend on the person you are writing to and the length of time their significant other has been deceased. If she still refers to herself as Mrs. John Smith, then that is how I would address the card. If not, I would address the card, Ms. Jane Smith, Ms. Smith, or Mrs. Smith depending on her preference. If she is someone you speak to regularly, ask her what she prefers.

Even though it is proper to address cards, Mrs. John Smith when Mr. Smith is alive, I feel it is a bit archaic. Older generations may prefer the former, but personally I would rather be Mr. and Mrs. Smith. This is especially true in informal letters or cards. For wedding invitations or more formal invites, I can understand the formality of Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. I hope that helps!

PAULA on December 10, 2007:

HOW WOULD YOU FORMALLY ADDRESS A WOMAN WHOS HUSBAND HAS BEEN DEAD 10 YEARS?? MY DAUGHTER WANTS TO ADDRESS IT TO:

MRS. JOHN SMITH

THAT JUST SEEMS WRONG TO ME.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 09, 2007:

Hi Holly,

Yes, he's correct. You don't need a period. Good luck with the rest of your cards!

holly on December 09, 2007:

Embarrasing as it is, I am an English major, and I've recently been addressing my Christmas cards' final line as: "Omaha, NE. 68144." My husband informed me that the correct way to send mail is just the two letter state abbreviation without a period. Is this correct?

Earth Angel on November 09, 2007:

Good Morning Robin and Kenny!!

So glad to see Robin's sweet words still popping up on screen!! My blessings are with you!! And Jaymee too!! Actually, all of you!! What an exciting time!!

To answer your question, many applications/forms/purchases, etc. ask for both a "mailing" address (P.O.) and a "shipping" address (physical)!! Unless I am actually expecting a physical package at my home, and the company agrees NOT to release this information, I only use the P.O. Box!

UPS/FedEX, etc. arrive with only the physical address showing on the outside and the P.O. on the inside of the package! The US Postal Service, as well as all the overnight shippers, honor requests that physical addresses not be disclosed.

For those companies that do not honor the privacy act, I give them the "physical address" of the post office where my P.O. Box is located with the number of the box being the suite number!

Having been stalked many years ago, the distinction is of critical importance to me! We live in an era of instant information, thank goodness, because we are making a living from it! There is however, a dark side for anyone who decides to do us harm!!

There are at least 10 more reasons to keep your physical address private and I will write a Hub about them!!

Blessings on your day!! Earth Angel!! ;-) Sapphire

Ashok Rajagopalan from Chennai on November 08, 2007:

As usual, I learn from not only your hub, but also the comments.

I did a doubletake at jmuriset's comment; I laughed out loud! (Only towards the end of the comment, of course!) And enjoyed your rejoinder! I'm off to be her fan and catch her first hub when it is batted!

Thanks, and bye!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 08, 2007:

Ah, thanks for the insight Sapphire! Do your packages to your house come with an address and PO Box number or just the former?

Earth Angel on November 08, 2007:

Hello Sweet Robin!! A person living in a gated community without general mail delivery would have both a physical address AND a P.O.Box!! The U.S.Postal Service only delivers to P.O. Boxes but Fed/EX, UPS, etc. try only to deliver to physical addresses!! I LOVE what you guys are doing with HubPages!! Earth Angel Blessings Always, Sapphire Grace!!

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on September 14, 2007:

Conformists! I've been known to address my triangular shaped letters in calligraphy. I've mailed plastic soda bottles filled with toys and confetti. Postal clerks both love me and hate me.

Email me your address Barry and I'll send you a postcard. queenofdreams@gmail.com.

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on August 17, 2007:

its been years since i got a post card !

Stacie Naczelnik from Seattle on July 02, 2007:

I should print this out and send it to some of the people who send correspondence to my office. We are always getting envelopes with the return address of: GP, OR. I don't live in Oregon, I have no idea what town/city "GP" is. I can understand something common like S.F., CA--but even then, kind of lazy. Good hub.

Sharon on June 18, 2007:

I was always taught to write the city separate from the state. Did that change when we started the zipcodes. No one ever told me and I have been writing that way for ,well let's say, many years.

Shirley on May 19, 2007:

I was taught at an early age in my secretarial career to always sign my name last on letters and greeting/sympathy cards.

Is it correct to put to sign my husband's name before mine? e.g. Jonty and Shirley

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 25, 2007:

Hi Emily,

Somehow I missed your comment, sorry about that. Names do not follow irregular plural forms. The Freemans is absolutely correct. Names should not be changed when made plural except for the adding of "s" or "es". Good question. ;)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 20, 2007:

Hi Carissa,

If you use the apostrophe I would say "house". If not, then I wouldn't use an apostrophe; e.g., The Fosters or The Foster's House. Thanks for the comment!

Carissa on April 20, 2007:

Thank you for adressing this issue because I have made this mistake before when ordering address labels. How about this scenario? I ordered an address plaque for next to the front door. I requested that it say:The Foster'sWould this be correct? I am referring to the house..but wasn't sure if it also should have been "The Fosters".Thank you,Carissa 

emily on April 12, 2007:

This has always been a problem for me because my maiden name is Freeman and saying "the Freemans" seems really bizarre but it certainly wouldn't be the Freemen.

I use the Freeman Family, but is there a rule about this type of situation, where names involve words that do not follow the usual pluralization rules?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 23, 2007:

Hi Tracy,

I'm trying to think of a reason why you would have a physical address and a PO Box. Unless it's a personal mailbox (PMB), I can't think of a reason to have both on your label. I would not use a physical address on your address line; I would just use the PO Box to avoid confusion. Here's the USPS.com site on PO Boxes: http://pe.usps.com/text/pub28/28c2_008.html#NL508_...

Hope that helps!

Tracy on March 22, 2007:

I want to include a physical address and a PO Box in the address information on an envelope. Is it true that if the PO Box is below the physical address, the delivery will be made to the Po Box? I think the rule is whatever is just above the city state zip line will be the delivery address? Am I dreaming this?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on January 20, 2007:

Hi Larry and Jill,

I looked up your first comment about writing out the name of the state with a comma and I found the following information from usps.com (United States Postal Service). They prefer that you don't write out the name of the state, instead use the abbreviation and NO comma is needed after the state. Actually, it looks as though no comma is needed even after the city. I agree that block letters are best. I wasn't able to verify your last comment, but it couldn't hurt to do as you said. Thanks for the comments. Below is the info from USPS.com.

Name or attention line

Company

Suite or apartment number

Delivery address

City state ZIP Code

For example:

JANE L MILLER

MILLER ASSOCIATES

[STE 2006]

1960 W CHELSEA AVE STE 2006

ALLENTOWN PA 18104

Automated mail processing machines read addresses on mailpieces from the bottom up and will first look for a city, state, and ZIP Code. Then the machines look for a delivery address. If the machines can’t find either line, then your mailpiece could be delayed or misrouted. Any information below the delivery address line (a logo, a slogan, or an attention line) could confuse the machines and misdirect your mail.

Use the following guidelines:

*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.

*All capital letters.

*No punctuation.

*At least 10-point type.

*One space between city and state.

*Two spaces between state and ZIP Code.

*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.

Larry and Jill on January 20, 2007:

and if State is spelled out then a comma and a SINGLE space before the zip code. ALSO if PRINTING an address BLOCK LETTERS should be CLEARLY used with the zip code in CLEAR BLOCK NUMBERS. The Post Office uses computer scanners, sloppy hand written labeling cost all of us money!

By the way, when absentee voting, put the County address on the return area so that they can PAY for the oversize envelope.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 11, 2006:

Thanks, Glassvisage!  Happy Holidays!

glassvisage from Northern California on December 09, 2006:

What a cute idea for a hub! Good timing :) And a nice tie-in to your grammar theme

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