Megan Johnson is a reporter in Boston. She got her start at the Boston Herald, where commenters would leave sweet messages like “Megan Johnson is just awful.” Now, she's a contributor to publications like People Magazine, Trulia and Architectural Digest.
published Jun 16, 2022
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Across the Pond
If you’re trying to address something that’s being sent internationally, things get a bit more complicated. That’s because each country tends to have rules that are slightly different. Stick to the previously-mentioned system for the first two lines, using the name followed by the street address and unit designator. However, things change a bit when you get to the third line. Depending on where your mail is going, the third line should have the city and postal code. Follow that up on the fourth line with the country, ideally in capitalized letters.
There are always additional specifics that should be considered when you’re addressing mail. For instance, if you’re sending something to a friend who lives in an apartment with several roommates or works in a busy office building, you may want to write “Attn” before their name to specify attention. When you follow the tips and tricks the postal service specifies, you have a greater chance of having your mail land in its intended place.
To write an apartment address, start by writing the recipient's full name on the center of the envelope or label you're using. Then, write their apartment street address on the line underneath, beginning with the building’s name, then the street name and apartment number. For example, you would write something like “Gaslight Square 506 Main Street Unit 204.” For the third line, write the city, state, and zip code. To learn how to include an “in care of” label when sending mail to the apartment staff, keep reading!
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There are few things more frustrating than waiting for your online order to arrive only to learn it’s been sent to the wrong apartment. Urgh! To be fair— you've meant to cut back on online shopping lately. Maybe it’s a sign.
Luckily, mishaps like these can be avoided when you learn how to correctly write an apartment address. So how about we go over the apartment addressing basics— and if the online shopping really is a problem, the universe will send another sign. Right?
How to Properly Address an Envelope
When sending and receiving mail, a properly written apartment address ensures your mail arrives in the right hands as quickly as possible. If something does go awry, it’ll be easier to submit a claim for lost mail if your apartment address is written correctly. With a little attention to detail, we can all continue fueling our online shopping addictions.
In fact, there are many instances (beyond online shopping) where writing your address correctly is pivotal. Consider when you’re writing an appeal letter or a notice to vacate. Whatever the occasion, a properly written apartment address lessens the probability of frustrating inconveniences.
First, grab a pen or marker with dark ink and evaluate your ability to write legibly. Being honest with yourself is the first step to successfully delivered mail. If you can’t write neatly in all capital letters, your delivery may be in jeopardy. If this is an issue, consider purchasing a label maker. Any investment to ensure your mail arrives in the correct mailbox is a good one.
The recipient’s address will be placed in the center of the envelope, while the return address will be in the top left corner. The same apartment address format is used for both addresses.
Here’s the formula for success when addressing an apartment envelope:
Line One: In all capital letters, write the recipient’s first and last legal name. Even if you know the recipient as something else, the apartment may not have their nickname on file. Consequently, they may not receive the mail. So, for the time being, the Bells are Isabellas and the Bobs are Roberts.
Line Two: Line two is your envelope’s main attraction, so let’s get it right! Here you’ll write the full street address followed by the apartment or suite number. Let’s dissect that with a formula and example.
Street Number + Street Name + Unit Designator Abbreviation + Unit Number
Example: 1234 COOL PERSON DR APT 123
Abbreviations make it easier to squeeze all the important information on line two. Whether you reside in an apartment, floor, unit, room, suite, etc., you can find a full list of the USPS’s appropriate secondary address unit designators here. When abbreviating street suffixes, you can check out their list here. When it comes to line two, directional information (N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, and SW) should be abbreviated. On line three, you’ll want to spell it out for them.—Literally.
If after all that abbreviation, you still can’t squeeze all the info on line two,-don’t fret. According to the USPS, “If the apartment or suite information cannot fit on the delivery address line, place it on a separate line immediately above the delivery address line.” So now your envelope may look something like this:
1234 COOL PERSON DR
ATLANTA, GA, 30301-0225
The only acceptable symbol to use on this line is the pound sign, but even that can sometimes cause issues. If you must use the pound sign, make sure there is a space between the symbol and the number following it. And on this line, don’t use any commas or periods— they aren’t necessary.
Line 3: If you were able to fit your apartment address information on line two, this will be line three. If not, this information may be bumped to a final line four. Regardless, this line is less tricky. You’ll need the simple formula below.
City + State Abbreviation + Zip+4 Code
The zip+4 code includes the standard five-digit zip code with an additional four numbers to further zoom in on a geographic region. It increases the likelihood of your mail arriving in the correct mailbox, so use it when you can. However, if you don’t have this information on your envelope, the mail will still likely end up in the right hands.
Once you’ve double-checked your recipient’s address, return address and placed postage in the letter’s top right corner, your letter is ready to go!
Online Forms and Your Apartment Address
For some apartment dwellers, correctly filling out online forms with address information can be confusing. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.
The “second address” option you’ll find on many online forms is usually located under the primary address bar, and it’s where you’ll type in any apartment, floor, or unit number that would not be detectable in the building’s physical address. Sometimes the division of the address information prompts people to split up the information when addressing an envelope. But remember, for the sake of efficiency and error prevention, we only do that if the situation demands it.
In the “second address” box, enter your appropriate unit designator (apartment, floor, room, etc.), followed by the unit’s number. Get it? Got it? Good!
How to Write Addresses for International Delivery
Whether you have family overseas or a pen pal you met on a cruise, you may find yourself needing to address mail for international delivery. The complicated thing about doing so is that rules often vary from country to country. Visit the Universal Postal Union to find additional information about what your recipient country may require.
Generally, the process will be the same as your normal addressing process, with a couple of exceptions. You may simply be including a city name and postal (zip) code on line three for international deliveries— not a state abbreviation. The order of these items will vary depending on where your mail is going, so check the link provided above.
Secondly, you’ll be adding a final line at the bottom of your address where you’ll simply provide the country’s name in all capital letters. This makes it super clear to the person (or computer) reading your mail that the destination is outside the USA.
1234 COOL PERSON DR APT 123
Other Factors to Consider When Writing an Address
In the spirit of becoming addressing prodigies, we’ll go over a couple final tips that may be helpful to your future addressing endeavors.
Sometimes your mail needs to go to a specific person in a larger household or company. In this case, you’ll want to utilize “Attn.” and “C/O.”
“Attn.,” also known as “attention,” should be used when your mail is intended for an individual in a professional organization like a business or department. The envelope should look like this:
Attn: Individual’s Legal Name
Similarly, when addressing an individual in the care of someone else, you’ll use “C/O,” aka “care of.” It will look something like this:
Individual’s Legal Name
Lastly, since we’ve poured so much effort into making sure our mail is delivered to the right place, let’s make sure others can find us as well. You want to ensure when people are sending mail to your apartment, it can find you. Learn all about the process of changing your address here.