Mailer's Guide: Address Standards


Address Standards

The USPS standards for addressing have changed to accommodate the high-speed automated equipment being installed in post offices nationwide. This equipment includes optical character readers (OCRS) and barcode sorters (CBS) programmed to read and sort up to 10 pieces per second. To ensure proper delivery of outgoing mail, decrease processing/ delivery time, and take advantage of postage discounts, mail must be “machinable” (i.e., the right size and shape to go through equipment) and electronically readable.

General format and address rules:

  • Use white or light-colored envelopes, and type (no script) the address in black ink. The OCR’s cannot recognize or read an address block if there is not enough contrast between the background color of the envelope and the ink used to type the address. Avoid using red or green envelopes, as the OCR cannot read them.
  • Center the address on the envelope.
  • Format all lines of address with a uniform left margin.
  • Use all capital letters. Use abbreviations whenever possible provided they are clearly self-explanatory.
  • Make sure address is as complete as possible, including all apartment or suite numbers and proper delivery designations such as RD, ST, NW and S.
  • Extraneous printing such as advertising copy or company logos should be positioned above the delivery address line. The space below and on either side of the delivery address line should be clear of all printing and markings not actually part of the address.
  • The typewriter or printer used should leave a clear space between each character. If any characters in the address touch each other, the OCR cannot tell where one ends and another one begins.
  • Do not use any punctuation in the address, except for the hyphen in the ZIP+4 Code. Place one full character space between words and between the state abbreviation and ZIP Code.
  • Do not place any printing below the city/state/ZIP Code line. Place any “attention” line above the firm name.
  • Make sure the city/state/ZIP Code line is at least one inch above the bottom edge of the envelope.
  • The address should be parallel to the bottom edge of the envelope, not slanted.
  • In the last line of the address, spell out the city name in its entirety and use the appropriate two-character state abbreviation.
  • The line immediately above the city/state/ZIP Code should indicate where you want the piece delivered by the US Postal Service. This is important if both the street address and post office box number must be used in the address block. (This is called “dual addressing” and should be avoided whenever possible).
  • Use ZIP+4 Codes whenever possible.
  • The address must be clearly visible in windowed envelopes, even when inserts shift.

US Domestic Address

ATTN: Mr. James Jones
The Manufacturing Co.
4417 Brook St. NE Suite 245
PO Box: 0649
Washington DC 20019-4649

Foreign Address

Mr. Thomas Clark
117 Russell Drive
London W1P6HQ

USPS Addressing Tips & Tools

State/Territory Abbreviations

Locator and Directional Abbreviations

Mail that cannot be read by the USPS equipment is routed to a letter-sorting machine where the information is manually keyed in. This will cause delays in the delivery of mail.

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