How to address an envelope: format and writing

In an age where we’re being taught how to compose electronic communication such as email, SMS or Skype, the art of addressing envelopes is being lost. Whilst writing letters is far from a forgotten skill, anyone inexperienced in envelope formatting may run into some issues.

Why is it important to address an envelope correctly?

Questions such as ‘where to write an address on envelopes’ or ‘how to format your return address’ are important questions to ask. Blindly writing on an envelope without prior knowledge is only going to cause you problems. Don’t believe it’s that important? Here are the scenarios you’re avoiding by following this guide:

  • Your mail delivery company will go to great lengths to deliver all mail, even if it’s poorly addressed or formatted. Even so, it’s likely you’d experience a delay in delivery and there’s still the risk of it getting lost.
  • Want your mail to arrive where you intended it do? Of course you do. Avoid confusing the mail staff or making the postman's job difficult and you’ll be rewarded with prompt delivery.
  • Are you sending your mail to a lover? Potential business partner? Penpal? Just like we make judgements and impressions in person, you can bet your mail receiver is going to look at your envelope in the same way. In the simplest terms, what would your reaction be if you received mail and the envelope was a scribbled mess?
  • You took the time to learn how an envelope should look but, through no fault of your own, it couldn’t be delivered. Including your return address on the back of an envelope ensures that you can be reunited with your mail, should it need to find its way back home.
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Writing an envelope checklist

Ensure that your envelope features the following information, displayed in this order, before finding your nearest postbox.

  1. Postal stamp
  1. Business name (business recipients only)
  • Writing the businesses name is important to include when sending mail to offices. Many businesses work out of the same building, so including their organisation’s name will help your mail find them quickly.
  1. Department (business recipients only)
  • Similarly to including the businesses name, detailing the receivers department within their organisation will get your mail to them faster. Large companies will have sorting offices to aid this process, but failure to include this information may lead to your letter being passed around before finding its desired recipient.
  1. Full name of the receiver
  • Ensure that you provide both the forename and surname of the recipient.
  • Consider using the title of the recipient, depending on your relationship with them. For business letters, it’s best practice to include Mr or Ms.
  • In some cases, your recipient may have an appointed peerage title such as Duke or Baroness, should that be the case, ensure that you include this on all correspondence.
  1. Building name (optional)
  • If the mail receiver's address includes a building name, it’s good practice to include it on the envelope, it may help to locate them.
  1. Full Street address (number and road)
  2. Town
  3. County
  4. Postcode
  • Ensure the postcode is fully capitalised.
  1. Return address
  • On the reverse of your envelope, ensure you include all of the necessary information so that your mail can be returned if needed. Unsure of what to include? Follow this checklist as if you were sending the mail to yourself, or check out reverse envelope format example below.

Personal envelope format example

Personal front of envelope format

Business envelope format example

Business front envelope format

Reverse envelope format example

Donna Chester
October 30, 2018
Explainers