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The following is for informational purposes only

What are the Different Address Formats?

Why Do Address Formats Matter?

Why Do Address Formats Matter?

Most people learn how to write an address in grade school. However, depending on the school's location, this lesson may have looked different. Those who live in the suburbs do not have the same format as those in military bases or rural areas, nor do international addresses or post office boxes. On the one hand, this is great because it allows mail to be separated and sent fast; on the other, there are many new rules to consider, most of which people haven't had to consider before.

This article breaks down nine address formats people will likely see or use in the real world. The correct address format is vital for sending things and ensures they go to the right place. Everyone's had situations where something gets sent to the other side of the country; imagine if it was your fault. Using the correct address format for the recipient will help your deliverables stay on the right track and make them easier to track. The nine sections below explain when to, how to, and best practices when using each format.

Address Formats and Examples

Depending on the recipient's address, it may be necessary to research the address before committing to it. Exceptional cases like navigational directions, unit numbers, and roadways may be good times to double-check the information. Abbreviations are one address element always at risk for inaccuracies:

  • Street can be ST; Lane can be LN; Drive can be DR; Road can be RD
  • Boulevard is also BLVD; Parkway is also PKWY; Court is also CT
  • Apartment can be APT; Suite can be STE; Annex can be ANX
  • North can reference N, NW, or NE; South can reference S, SW, or SE
  • West usually refers to W; East usually refers to E

Individual Addresses

These are also called "regular" or "standardized" addresses. They are the most common address used to send and receive mail. These include the bare minimum of information within the address format. Business names and titles are unnecessary, but a complete zip code is necessary. Zip code extensions (-####) are preferred but not necessary.

  • Recipient Line
  • Delivery Address Line
  • Last Line (City, State, Zip Code)

In practice, this may look like:

John Doe
1234 S Main Street
Chicago, IL 98765-4321

Numbered Street Addresses

Some mail address formats require more information than the standardized version. Typical situations where this occurs include numbered streets. These occasions require nuances that may be tricky to implement correctly. For example, numbered streets refer to streets that begin with numerals rather than words. In these situations, the official postal formatting should include numerals (12) over words (Twelve).

  • Recipient Line
  • Delivery Address Line with Numerals
  • Last Line (City, State, Zip Code)

In practice, this may look like:

Jake Dower
12 42nd ST S Meadows
Sacramento, CA 98765-1234

Rural Route Addresses

One of the most unique options, the occasion for these addresses is increasingly rare. Rural areas are far from major cities and servicing routes, giving them a particular standardization. As a US address format, they have many nuances and minimal similarities to the address formats above. For example, they have a rural route designation with a box number instead of listing the delivery address. The "box" is the recipient's assigned mailbox, often in a more centralized location. Be sure not to add additional delivery address information, as this format is sensitive; too many details may send the mail piece in the wrong direction.

  • Recipient Line
  • RR (#) BOX (#)
  • Last Line (City, State, Zip Code)

In practice, this may look like:

Marissa Black
RR 8 BOX 29F
Austin, TX 98765-4567

Post Office Box Addresses

Depending on the recipient of the mail piece, a post office box address may be acceptable. Companies tend to use these boxes, but private individuals are increasingly using them, too. Their most significant difference from the standardized formats above is their lack of street address. Note, however, that post office boxes operate differently between countries, in these cases, refer to the international address section below. Do not add unnecessary punctuation to these addresses, as the US Postal Service desires.

  • Recipient Line
  • Company Line (if necessary)
  • PO BOX (#)
  • Last Line (City, State, Zip Code)
  • Country (if necessary, all caps)

In practice, this may look like:

Hateno Kass
Hot Coffee Co.
PO Box 2738
Detroit, MI 73824

Military Addresses

Local and international military mail have precise guidelines. The proper address format changes depending on whether the recipient is overseas or domestic. Every mail piece requires a qualifying APO/FPO address and military "state". APO refers to the Air and Army Post Office, while FPO refers to the Fleet Post Office. Senders can also address the mail to the DPO or Diplomatic Post Office. Do not add countries or cities to the address; this can kick the mail into the foreign mail network.

  • Recipient Line (with or without title)
  • Commanding Officer Line (if necessary)
  • APO/FPO/DPO (then) AA/AE/AP Zip Code

In practice, this may look like:

SGT. Iris Combs
UNIT 3783 BOX 835
APO AE 98765

International Addresses

Our friends overseas have letter address formats resembling domestic mail formatting. In some countries, however, the format switches the postal code and city. The only way to know the standard for a specific country is by checking for yourself (before sending). Additionally, when sending mail overseas, use all capital letters and spell out the entire city and country. Abbreviations are acceptable only for street addresses and city subdivisions.

  • Recipient Line
  • Delivery Address or Post Office Box Number
  • City, Town, Principal Subdivision, and Postal Code
  • Country Name

In practice, this may look like:


Other Address Formats

There are more address types than what are listed here. Your formats will depend on where the mail goes and who should receive it. For example, some New Mexico and Wisconsin areas use "alpha prefix" addresses composed of numbers and letters. Utah uses a grid numbering method that necessarily includes directionals; Hawaii and New York may use hyphenated street numbers.

Senders have various address formats, which can be overwhelming to some. Mitigate this overwhelming feeling by double-checking the address format before sending any mail. Check online for the correct format, or better yet, check with the recipient first.

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