What is the proper way to format an address?

That is an easy question for US addresses as the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a pretty well defined format that they'd like people to use.  In most cases they would like to see three lines of information, as follows:

  • Name (TOM JONES AND SALLY JONES)
  • Address (123 E MAIN ST APT 12)
  • City, State, Zip code (LOS ANGELES CA 90012)

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. the USPS likes address to be in all upper case (capitalized letters).
  2. they don't like to see periods (.) or commas (,) in the address.
  3. they like the street direction (North, South, East, West) to be abbreviated to N, S, E or W.
  4. they like the type of street (Drive, Lane, Avenue, Street, Boulevard, Road) to be abbreviated to DR, LN, AVE, ST, BLVD or RD
  5. they like the unit (Apartment, Suite, Room, Building, Department, Floor) to be abbreviated to APT, STE, RM, BLDG, DEPT or FL.
  6. if you use the number sign (pound sign, hashtag symbol (#)) before a number, add a space between the number sign and the actual number (i.e. # 12). But the number sign is not needed if you have the unit description (APT, STE, etc.) 
  7. don't abbreviate the city name.
  8. if you know the full 9-digit zip code (zip+4) (00000-0000), use it, otherwise the 5-digit zipcode will work.
  9. if you have a street address and a PO BOX, pick one and send to it, don't use both as that will just confuse the post office.

Keep in mind, you shouldn't stress over these items.  If you are uncertain and this document doesn't answer you questions, simply try your best and and send it out.  The USPS has been delivering mail for a long time and are pretty good at understanding what you mean.  However, there are some things that the USPS can't deliver your letter without; you must have a complete street address and a state and a zipcode.

What about extra information, like company name?

Our service limits you to five (5) lines for your address.  That means we provide an extra Name line and an extra Address line.  You don't need to use them, and probably shouldn't use them unless you really need to.  

We recommend using the second Name line for a Company Name, a Job Title, or an additional recipient living or working at the same address.  We don't recommend putting someone's last name only in the second name field.

We generally believe that a second address line is not needed, but sometimes it is convenient if you are importing data from a software package which keeps the unit number on a second line.  If you are typing an address, we recommend putting the unit number on the same line as the street address.

There might be occasions when you need three name lines.  If so, use the first address line for the third name and then put the complete address in the second address line.

Confused about what a street address is composed of?

The street address is similar to what you might type into google or apple maps so you can get to the specific address.  If you don't have a specific address for your letter, it will have a tough time getting there.

The street address if generally made up of these items:  

Street or House Number - Most houses and businesses have a specific number assigned to them so you can determine exactly which building on a particular street you are trying to find.  The US 911 system really needs people and businesses to have a street number on the building to help first responders get to the address without delay.

Street Direction - Most street names have a compass direction assigned to them.  This direction appears after the House Number and before the actual Street Name. While sometimes dual directions are used (North West) most of the times a single direction is used and is normally abbreviated to a single letter (N, S, E, W).

Street Name - This is the actual name of the street and could be almost anything.  The most popular street name is "Second".  "Main" is in the top 10.

Street Type - Some cities use the same street name in multiple ways, for instance there can be a Main Street and a Main Drive, so make sure to include the street type (drive, avenue, lane, boulevard, way, road, etc)

If we put it all together, 123 East Main Street.  But abbreviate it as 123 E MAIN ST.

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