Although labeling an envelope might seem to be a harmless task on the surface, it is something that needs some amount of deliberateness.
Writing the correct labels not only on an envelope but also on other detail-dependent items like parcels is key in making smooth transactions happen.
So, in our post today, we lay down the guidelines based on the best practices in labeling an envelope correctly.
Let’s start with a quick overview.
How to Label an Envelope
- Write down the sender’s complete name in the upper-left-hand corner
- Write down the sender’s complete address (a.k.a. the return address) in the upper-left-hand corner
- Write down the recipient’s complete name in the center of the envelope
- Write down the recipient’s complete address in the center of the envelope
- Stick the postage stamp on the upper-right-hand corner
How to label an envelope in 5 easy-to-read steps
Sending a message hasn’t always been easy. Hundreds of years ago, it could take hours, days, or weeks for a message to reach someone.
Thanks to technology, we don’t have to endure that anymore. However, we still need to send letters, other printed documents, and packages from time to time these days.
So, apparently, knowing how to label an envelope correctly is still pretty much of a relevant, not to mention practical, life hack even in modern times.
Before we proceed, it is essential to note that all of the steps below have to be done on the face of the envelope.
The face of the envelope is the part that does not contain the flaps or folds. In other words, this is essentially the “writable” part of the envelope.
For the most part, instinct would tell us where exactly this part is, but there’s no harm in detailing this one to avoid wasting trees.
Well then, here are the specific steps to labeling an envelope appropriately:
1. Write down the sender’s complete name in the upper-left-hand corner
First and foremost, we need to write down the name of the sender in the upper-left-hand corner of the envelope.
The “sender” is the person or organization from which whatever document inside the envelope is coming from.
“Complete name” means the legally registered name of the sender, which can also contain name titles like “Dr.” or “Engr.” and name suffixes like “PhD.”
“PhD” or “Ph.D.” is the widely used abbreviation for “Philosophiae Doctor.” This is the highest academic achievement a person can have.
Most of the time, writing down the complete name of the sender would suffice, as this is the general practice in most countries.
However, if the organization or company name where the sender works could be relevant, then it can also be optionally written down below the sender’s name.
Examples (Complete Name):
John B. Doe
Alice K. Smith, Ph.D.
Engr. Dave Newman
Examples (Organization Name):
TechyDoc Services, Inc.
Lakeview Medical Center, Inc.
SeeFood Grill, LLC
Useful tip: If you are writing by hand, it would be best to write in all caps. This would increase the readability of your text.
2. Write down the sender’s complete address (a.k.a. the return address) in the upper-left-hand corner
After writing the sender’s name, as well as the optional organization name, we need to write down the complete return address.
The return address is the sender’s complete address. It is called the return address because this is where the envelope gets taken back in case the recipient can’t be found.
A complete return address mostly contains the P.O. box number, building number, street name, building name, city, state, and the postal code or ZIP code.
2.1 Sender’s P.O. Box Number (if applicable)
A P.O. or “Post Office” box is a receptacle space dedicated to storing items that are being shipped to and from post offices.
P.O. boxes are assigned with unique identifier numbers. Those numbers are what we simply refer to as P.O. box numbers.
A P.O. box number is usually represented by two-to-five digits written in numerical figures rather than in words.
Unlike in the past, P.O. box information is now available online. We can find this by going to courier websites such as the United States Postal Service in the USA.
A quick search within the system allows us to find the closest post offices with available PO boxes.
Here are examples of what P.O. box numbers look like:
P.O. Box 32975
P.O. Box 1304
P.O. Box 232
P.O. Box 70
Useful tip: You can actually make your life easier by dropping the period marks in “P.O.” when labeling an envelope by hand.
Sender’s Building and Street Details (Address Line 1)
Also known as “Address Line 1” in the various forms that we fill up, the building and street information of the sender goes right below the optional PO box number.
The building details include the building number as well as the building name, while the street details include the registered street name.
Although the complexity of these ranges on different levels, the most important information pieces for this label are just the building number and the street name.
The specific building number, which is often the house number, can be found in your legal documents if it is not posted somewhere within the premises.
To save space, we normally abbreviate the street suffix. But, take note that there are certain abbreviation standards accepted by local couriers.
So, if you are unsure how to abbreviate the street suffix, the default rule is to write it in its complete form.
If the details above don’t suffice, looking into the deeper nuances of writing the street address in forms should help.
Here are a few examples of building and street labels or Address Line 1:
2764 Yorkie Lane
0969 Murphy St.
1280 Autumn Avenue
032 Dog Hill Rd.
Useful tip: Remember that a comma does not come between the building number and street name.
Sender’s City, State, and Postal or ZIP code (Address Line 2)
As you may have guessed, the city, state, and postal or ZIP code labels meanwhile make up the Address Line 2.
Although a slightly intimidating field to fill out, Address Line 2 simply contains the name of the sender’s city, state, as well as the assigned postal code.
The city name is written completely, while the state name is often abbreviated. The postal code is meanwhile written in numerical figures.
If you are unsure what your postal code is, you can simply search for this information online by typing your city and state name together with the keyword “postal or ZIP code.”
Doing this should generate an answer in seconds. Here are a few examples of how to write the Address Line 2:
Estelline, TX 79233
Mount Pleasant, Michigan 48858
Camden, NJ 08102
Schaumburg, Illinois 60173
Useful tip: Observe proper punctuation. Writing addresses can be especially tricky because we need to take note of punctuation marks too.
That said, you should only put a comma between the city and the state name. Do not use a comma before the postal code.
4. Write down the recipient’s complete name in the center of the envelope
Now that we’re done with the first part, let us now go to the second part, which is pretty much the same as the first.
The only difference is that we are now going to focus on the recipient or addressee’s personal details instead of the sender’s.
The recipient’s legally registered name, optional business name, and existing address should go to the center of the envelope.
As suggested earlier, if you think the organization or company name is relevant, then write it down below the name.
You may also use the “attention” prompt through the abbreviation “ATTN:” before the recipient’s name.
If the letter is expected to go to a third-party agent or handler, the sender should use the abbreviation for “in the care of” which is “c/o” before the name of the mediating agent.
If you don’t feel like using the abbreviated version “c/o,” you may also simply write the phrase “in the care of,” “in care of,” or simply “care of.”
The meaning and usage of “c/o” actually go deeper than it seems, so you might want to check it out at your convenient time.
In particular, the name of the agent goes below the name of the letter recipient. The “c/o” sign should go before the name of the mediating agent, which may or may not be capitalized.
Likewise, the business or company name of the recipient may also be optionally written below the recipient and agent names.
ATTN: Cameron Greene
C/O Samantha Paulson
ASDF Business, Inc.
In the care of Alice Waters
Atty. Frederick Michaels
JKL Legal Services, LLC
Useful tip: Again if you’re writing by hand, it would be best to write in all caps to prevent misinterpretation.
5. Write down the recipient’s complete address in the center of the envelope
The recipient’s address is otherwise known as the “shipping address” or the address where you want your letter or parcel to be sent.
For this part, an optional P.O. box number, the building and street details, city, state, and postal or ZIP code of the receiving party are the necessary items to be included.
Recipient’s P.O. Box Number (if applicable)
As a sender, whether or not you should put a P.O. box number largely depends on your agreement with the recipient.
If your recipient instructs you to send your letter or any other parcel to his or her nearest post office, then you should ask for a P.O. box number from that person.
If you are probably sending your letter or package as a surprise, then you should at least know some of the closest post offices to your recipient.
In cases like this, you, as the sender, will be the one doing the research regarding your recipient’s details.
Needless to say, you have to make sure everything is correct to avoid delays and other delivery-related issues.
To recall, here are a couple of sample P.O. box numbers, which should go below the name of the recipient, the mediating agent, and the business name, if the latter two are applicable:
P.O. Box 69079
P.O. Box 2938
Recipient’s Building and Street Details (Address Line 2)
Similar to the structure explained in the sender’s context earlier, the recipient’s Address Line 1 goes right below the recipient’s name.
Once again, the P.O. box number, mediating agent’s name, and recipient’s business name are optional items that may also be found above the building and street details.
To write the building and street details correctly, the sender should find out the recipient’s building number and street name.
The building number is often the house number of the recipient. This information needs to be confirmed with the recipient most of the time.
Meanwhile, the street details include the name of the street where the recipient’s building is located together with street suffixes.
Street suffixes may or may not be abbreviated. When choosing to abbreviate this item, the standard abbreviation protocols of the courier must be followed.
9208 Ashton Ln.
0645 Lighthouse Dr.
Recipient’s City, State, and Postal or ZIP code
The last items in the recipient’s complete address include the recipient’s city, state, and postal or ZIP code details.
The city name needs to be written completely, whereas the state may or may not be abbreviated.
Punctuating abbreviations is quite a delicate task in general. Hence, knowing how commas are used after abbreviations would certainly make things easier.
By the way, one thing we have to note is when our recipient changes his or her residential address.
If we unknowingly write down the recipient’s address based on our previous knowledge, the letter will just be mailed back to the return address if it’s not the existing one anymore.
So, before deciding to label an envelope, the default process is to always ask our recipient for their current mailing address.
To recall, here are a couple of examples of how to write Address Line 2 or the recipient’s mailing address:
Branson, Missouri 65616
Smithville, TN 37166
Stick the postage stamp on the upper-right-hand corner
The last step to labeling an envelope is to stick the postage or monogram stamp on the upper-right-hand corner of the envelope.
In the past, postage stamps were used to indicate the amount of postage paid by the letter sender rather than the recipient.
At present, though, couriers already mostly have their postage service calculators on their websites, as well as postage stamp prices.
Thanks to Sir Rowland Hill of England, postage stamps (a.k.a penny posts) were invented to make the mailing process more convenient.
Because of this, mail recipients in the past did not have to pay for the mail service upon the delivery anymore.
The postage stamp is based on the return address, which simply means the sender’s address. Meanwhile, the price of postage stamps depends on many factors.
Price details on postage services and stamps are mostly available online as well. Hence, we could just easily visit our chosen courier’s website for more accurate details.
Postage stamps do not only serve as simple mailing tools because many people also collect them as a hobby because of the stamps’ craftsmanship.
To conclude, labeling an envelope should not be treated as a dull, transactional task that only a limited number of people should do.
In fact, labeling an envelope is a really important life skill that most, if not all, people should have to make information and material access more efficient.
Frequently Asked Questions on “How to Label an Envelope”
What does “return address” mean?
A return address is the address of the sender or mailer of a letter or parcel. In other words, it is the exact opposite of the recipient’s address.
How do you write a complete address?
Writing a complete address entails the following entities or items: building number, street name, city, state, and postal or ZIP code.
How do we label an envelope with PO box number?
The PO box number, which a sender or recipient can optionally write down, goes below the name of the person either sending or receiving the mail or parcel. It contains 2-5 digits written in numerical figures.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.