Addressing Envelopes

By Maeve Maddox

Here’s a question from Alfonso Rodriguez from Lima, Peru:

Would you be so kind as to tell me what is the correct way to write down an address when the building has no number, I think there is an abbreviation form.

If any of you readers outside the U.S. know of an abbreviation that designates a building without a street number, please tell us in the comments.

In the United States, new construction requires the existence of a street number before a building is built. As for older buildings, according to the person I talked to at the USPS 800 number, all buildings in towns have street numbers. Rural addresses may make use of the abbreviation RR:

D.Q. Jones
RR 5 Box 19
Molesville TX 77293

Many buildings have both names and street addresses. If a building is well-known in the town where it is, the name can serve in lieu of a numbered address, as long as the town and state are included. For example, an envelope addressed to someone at the Empire State Building, New York, N.Y. would probably reach its destination without the address 350 5th Ave.

USPS address-reading machinery reads addresses from the bottom up:

4…………D. Q. Jones
3………..12233 Jefferson Ave Apt 1
2………. Newport News, VA 23602
1…………USA

According to the official USPS guidelines, designations such as Apt (apartment), Dept (department), and Ste (suite) go on the same line as the street address:

234 Hilltop Dr Apt 504
Greenwich PA 23853

NOT
234 Hilltop Dr
Apt 504
Greenwich PA 23853

In the event that the space available for the address is not large enough for Apt to be written out, the symbol # can be used in its place:

234 Hilltop Dr #504
Greenwich PA 23853

It a street address is especially long, some of the vowels may be omitted.
For example, 23 Espendhade-Dogwood Terrace could be shortened to:

23 Espnshd-Dgwd Ter.

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12 Responses to “Addressing Envelopes”

  • Daran

    I live in the UK and I have never heard of this being an issue. You just put the name of the building after the addressee. My parents, for example, live in a Scottish croft*. They don’t even have a street Their address is:

    Mr. and Mr’s Person
    Theircroft Croft
    Theirtown
    Postcode

    Theretown is actually 4 miles away.

    *Technically the word croft refers to a parcel of land. Any dwelling thereupon is a “crofthouse”, sometimes spelled as separate words. My usage above is informal but ubiquitous in Scotland.

  • Daran

    OMG! I apostrophised Mrs! Please install a plugin to allow us to edit comments after we have made them.

  • Peter

    I remember 20-odd years ago watching Anne Robinson on TV, she got a letter from a viewer addressed to “the woman with the lopsided smile at the BBC”… 🙂

    (PS: does anyone know what that program[me] was called? In the mid-late ’80s, Anne used to host it, the intro music was “When I’m 64″…and was it the one where they used to make fun of the fake diet aids people were trying to sell? Something called “Bai Linn Tea” was the long-running joke, but my favourite was a company selling a length of string and a small plastic padlock with no key for £10 — you were supposed to tie the string tightly around your middle, padlock it in place…and then lose weight because that was the only way to get it off without cutting the string and wasting £10!)

  • Maeve

    Daran,
    Don’t you just hate it when that happens! I’m afraid I don’t have any control over that part of the site.

    Thanks to M.C. Beaton I know about crofts. I’ve been reading her Hamish Macbeth series.

    Thanks for the information.

    Maeve

  • Sherill Anderson

    Hi there! The U. S. Postal Service has a suggested format. When you go to their website, USPS, and ask for a Zip Code (which I do for “extended Zip”) the answer comes back as follows IN CAPS:

    Bertha M. Lien
    14505 MINNETONKA DR APT 205
    MINNETONKA MN 55345-2210

  • Keith

    Hi There.
    In Canada, it is common practice to put the apartment, unit, etc. number before the street number and name, separated by a hyphen.
    That would make your example
    234 Hilltop Dr Apt 504
    turn into
    504-234 Hilltop Dr
    Cheers.
    Keith

  • b2j2

    Here’s a later (2008) USPS publication:

    http://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/Pub28/pub28.pdf

    Unfortunately, the USPS “preferred” address formate is somewhat ugly (all uppercase and no punctuation (except the dash in “ZIP+4”)), to facilitate automation and lowest bulk rates. However, lowercase and punctuation is “acceptable” in most circumstances. If “#” is used, it is supposed to have a space following.

    (I maintain several mailing lists, and see that I have violated several of the current specifications.)

  • spike1

    Didn’t “Points of view” used to have “when I’m 64” as the theme tune?

    As for 80’s consumer programmes, only ones that I can think of are Watchdog (she DID used to present that, but back in the 80s it was presented by lynn faulds wood and john stapleton)

    Maybe your memory’s a bit scrambled and you’re just remembering bits from both programmes. Cos she did present both at different times.

  • Peter

    Spike1: the title doesn’t ring a bell, but Points of View appears to the one I was thinking of with the letter, yes; thanks. I think the Bai Linn tea was on That’s Life, come to think of it.

  • spike1

    Peter. Thought it might’ve been…
    My train of thought got derailed when I wrote that…
    I meant to say…
    As for 80’s consumer programmes, only ones that I can think of are Watchdog (she DID used to present that, but back in the 80s it was presented by lynn faulds wood and john stapleton) and That’s Life.

  • Daran

    You just put the name of the building after the addressee. My parents, for example, live in a Scottish croft*

    After writing this, it occurred to me that my example isn’t one. Despite my informal usage, the “croft” in the address still refers to the parcel of land. There’s no ambiguity because there is only one dwelling on it, but if there were more it would be necessary to add an extra line to identify which one.

    So there you have it: a valid UK address in which neither street nor building is identifed.

  • Leigh

    In school, we were always taught to put the suite, apartment, or office number BEFORE the street address. The rule was from top to bottom, travel from the specific (the person), becoming more general as the addresses descended, ultimately to a nation at the end of needed.

    Like our British citizen above, before the Post Office established nationwide standards decades ago, my ancestors’ addresses were known by their estate or house name. For example,

    Mazie Kemper
    The Bob-o-Link
    Morristown, Indiana

    It was a lot classier then, but clearly less practical. (sigh)

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