The way addresses are written on letters, envelopes, and packages is different in different countries. This post takes a look at how to write an address in English for mail to or within the United States.
First take a look at this example using the The White House (where the American president lives) as an example. You will see two addresses on this envelope. The address in the left hand corner is your address. This is called the ‘return address’. This is where the letter will be sent back to if it does not arrive at the location it is supposed to. The return address should be written using the same format you use to write the recipient’s* address. The address in the middle of the envelope is the address you want your letter to go to, the recipient’s address. The stamp or postage is placed in the right hand top corner.
If you are sending the letter to a business, company, or organization, the next line should be the name of the business. If you are sending the letter to a person’s home you do not write a business name, just the person’s name.
The White House
The next line contains the recipient’s street address, starting with the number of the house or building, then the name of the street. In the example above there is also an area of the city indicated, ‘NW’ which means Northwest. This is not commonly included in an address in the United States, but this element may be part of an address of a location in a big city. All houses and buildings in the United States have street numbers and are located on streets with names. For example the address ‘The corner of Elm Street and Main street’ is not acceptable because no number is included. There must be a house or building number included for all location. If the mail is also being sent to an apartment, then an apartment number is needed as well. Here are some common abbreviations used on the street address line of mail in the United States: St. = street, Ave. = avenue, Dr. = drive, Pl. = place (these are all words that mean ‘street’), Apt. = apartment.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
569 107th Street, Apt. #507
If a person does not have mail delivered to their house or apartment, either because they don’t want this to happen or because they live in a rural community where mail is not delivered, it is possible to pick up personal mail at the post office. Post offices in the United States have post office boxes where mail is delivered to secure locked boxes that can only be opened by the person with the key for the box. If a person has their mail delivered to the post office their address will look different, because there will be no street address. In this type of address post office is abbreviated as P.O.
P.O. Box 987
The last line of an addressed envelope in the United States includes information about the city/town, state, and zip code where the mail is being sent. Every mail district in the United States has a unique five-digit number or code, called a ‘zip code’. This number is used to help sort mail faster and get the mail to the correct destination even if the city and state information is not written legibly** or correctly. All 50 states in America have a two letter abbreviation (California = CA) that is usually used when writing out addresses, you can also write the name of the state out in full, but these abbreviations are helpful and convenient.
Washington, DC 20500
I hope this information helps you better understand how to write an address using the American system. Now here is some practice. Here are the different parts of Transparent Language’s address (with me as the recipient). See if you can put these in the right order. I will give you the correct answer in tomorrow’s post.
* recipient = a person who is receiving something
** legibly = to be written in away that is easy to read