I work at a post office and as of late I have noticed a huge increase in customers who do not know how to address snail mail correctly. Some just give up an dump everything on the counter. Others do it wrong and get upset if you offer advice. I suppose with one full generation having come of age with the internet, addressing an envelope is less common than it used to be. Bills come with the return envelope already provided. Still, it's a useful skill. Your items will get to their destination faster. It's more likely they will be delivered. And you can feel good about yourself having learned a new skill.

Things You Will Need

Paper, pen, pencil, or a computer or typewriter. Labels if you want them, or you can write directly on the object.

Step 1

For first class mail envelopes use a ball point pen, typewriter, or computer to address your snail mail. Pencil and marker are accepted by the USPS but they smear. I don't recommend them. Don't think it's cute or fun to have your child address the mail "Grandpa" or "Joe" without a last name. Chances are it may make your letter undeliverable if the address is wrong or unreadable. I've seen this happen a lot. What happens next? If you put a return address in the upper left hand corner the letter will eventually return to you, if not, it's off to "dead letters." Put the address and address to the center or right of the envelope in clear writing. Put the name on the first line, the house number and street on the second (or PO Box if it is a PO Box address) and the city, state and zip plus four code all on the third line. It is not necessary to put a comma in between the city and state. It is always recommended to use the zip plus four code. If you don't know the plus four code you can look it up on line at usps.com or call 1-800-ASK-USPS.

Step 2

Addressing priority mail is similar to address first class. You may use a priority mail label if you wish. If you use the red, white and blue boxes provided by the post office for priority mail to the "to" and "from" slots are marked on the box. You may ship anything priority mail in any box, just tell the postal clerk and he or she will affix a priority mail sticker to your item. If you print labels at home, pick up some free stickers at the local post office. It makes your priority status "pop." The easier you make it for the postal employees to see what kind of service you paid for, the more likely you will receive it!

Step 3

Express mail requires an express mail label, unless you are printing labels at home. If you are printing labels at home or at your office, pick up some express mail stickers to put on your items so that the special status is clear. If you are using the postal labels for express mail, the squares are provided on the label for the zip code. In the "to" address area, put one digit for each zip code plus four number in each box provided. That's what they're there for. If you have a phone number, provide it. Express mail receives special handling. The post office will do everything in their power to ensure your delivery, but they can only do as well as the information you provide them. If you want the item delivered without a signature, make the box authorizing this service. If you are mailing to a business you can also request that they do not attempt delivery on Saturday or Sunday. If you are mailing to a zip code that is PO Boxes only, DON'T use a street address. It will not be recognized by the system. You can check any address in the United States for viability at USPS.com

Step 4

Formatting addresses for foreign mail: If you aren't sure which is the country and which is the city, check it out on Wikipedia.org. Some countries have neither states nor provinces. If they don't, it's not necessary to fill in that information on the label. However, every address should have a city. If you don't know what the city is, find out. Most countries, but not all have postal codes. In Canada the postal codes go letter number letter number. In Latvia, they start with LV dash and then some numbers. They vary, but they will be numbers provided at the end of the address as apposed to the house number. If you are shipping to a foreign country via Express mail, the name of the country goes at the bottom underneath the rest of the address. Always put the country as part of the address for foreign mail no matter what service you are using. Always put the country on the address for foreign mail, even if you are shipping to Canada. Even if it seems obvious to you what country it is, always put the country on the address. If the script is very different from English, such as Chinese or Russian, address the item in both scripts. It's not hard to address mail properly. It's nice to do things correctly and it gives you more bang for your buck. Your mail is delivered in more timely manner when you address it properly.

Tips & Warnings

The address you want your stuff to go to belongs to the center below the stamp. The stamp, or metered postage belongs on the right upper corner. The return address belongs on the left upper corner. If you do not put a return address on a parcel, it may languish in dead letters or at your local post office. Return addresses have been required on parcels since the Patriot Act! Even if you put "To" and "from" next to your addresses, if they are located in the incorrect places, your item may not get shipped to the place you paid for.