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14 Simple Tips for How to Address a Letter

Last Updated: Jan 30, 2018

There are certain occasions in life when writing a letter is appropriate. It is always beneficial to know how to write one, when to send one and how to address one. Addressing your letters can be done effortlessly by keeping just a few tips up your sleeve.

Transform your handwritten notes into convenient communication that will make a lasting impression, regardless of who you are writing to. Whether you are inviting guests to a party, writing a formal business letter, sending a cover letter or mailing a thank you message, utilizing the appropriate letter format will make your messages more attractive and save you time.

how to address a letter

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Step by Step: How to Address a Letter

When addressing a letter, make sure you take into consideration the proper address format for the envelope as well as the letter itself. Follow the guidelines on how to address a letter below to create a streamlined process and get your letters to their intended recipients:

  1. Address the letter with consideration to who you are writing to as well as the occasion. The appropriate way to address a letter will depend on both of these details.
  2. If you are writing an informal letter to someone close to you like a friend or a family member, use a personal greeting to address your recipient. A closer relationship with your recipient allows you to be less formal with the greeting you select. This salutation will be warm and reflective of your connection. Using the greeting, “Dear John,” is always a safe standby though. If you’re very close with the recipient, you can skip a title and address them by name or use a nickname.
  3. If you are writing a business letter or any type of formal communication like wedding invitations, use formal letter format to address your recipient. Formal correspondence calls for a different type of format than you would use if addressing a pen pal or a close recipient. If you’re sending a business letter, use business letter format which includes four parts— the sender’s address and contact information, the date, the inside address and the salutation. Write each of these parts, one after another, on the left side of your letter. If your formal communication is not in terms of business, you do not need to include all four parts that the business letter format does, only include the formal salutation.
  4. Use the correct titles when addressing recipients in any type of formal communication. Instead of writing “John Doe,” write “Mr. John Doe,” or instead of writing “Jane Doe,” write ” Mrs. Jane Doe.”
  5. Address couples based on their marital status. Address a married couple using  “Mr.” and “Mrs.” followed by the man’s name. For example, “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.”
  6. Address an unmarried couple that lives together with their appropriate titles joined together with “and.” For example, “Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Mark.”
  7. When addressing an entire family use the family’s last name preceded by “The.” For example, “The Smiths.”
  8. Use professional titles when appropriate. Always use professional titles when addressing members of the clergy, elected officials, doctors or those who have earned their Ph.D. For example, “The Reverend Mr. John Doe,” or “Dr. John Doe.”
  9. Use a general salutation when addressing a letter with no contact person. For example, “To Whom it May Concern,” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”

If you’re looking for more detailed instructions and examples to ensure your letters are properly addressed, take a look at our specific “how-to” articles on letter etiquette. When it comes to baby showers, you can reference our guides on how to address a baby shower card and how to address a baby shower invitation. If you’re preparing for holiday cards, we have you covered with tips on how to address a Christmas card during the holiday season. Lastly, pay close to attention to our helpful tips on how to address a wedding invitation and how to address graduation invitations since these are more formal occasions.

Addressing Your Envelope

Now, it’s time to address your envelope! To address an envelope properly you’ll need three things—a return address, the recipient’s address and a stamp. Use the tips below to address your envelopes properly.

  1. Write the return address in the upper left hand corner of the envelope or if you’d like you can place it on the back flap of the envelope. The return address is almost always the address of the sender, but in some cases it could be the address of where you’d prefer the return mail to be sent. On the first line write the sender’s full name. The second line will include the sender’s street address and the final line will include the sender’s city, state and zip code.
  2. Write the letter recipient’s address on the front of the envelope in the center using the correct titles above. Writing the letter recipient’s address on the envelope will follow the same format as the return address. On the first line, address the recipient by name using the proper titles. On the second line, write the recipient’s street address and the final line will include the recipient’s city, state and zip code.
  3. Don’t forget to add a postage stamp to your letter because it wouldn’t be a properly addressed envelope without one. This will pay for the delivery of your letter and is usually adhered to the top right-hand corner of the envelope. Make sure that you have the correct postage stamp for your letter to assure that your message gets to where it is headed.
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Specific Examples for How to Address a Letter

When addressing letters, remember to use the appropriate format and titles for the occasion at hand. There are many different occasions for writing a letter that will utilize different formats for addressing and sending. Use these examples for how to address a letter in order to visualize the above steps in action:

Addressing an Informal Letter:

Addressing the letter/ Salutation  Addressing the Envelope
 Dear Jane,  Jane Doe

123 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, California 94101

Addressing a Formal Letter to a Married Couple:

Addressing the letter/ Salutation  Addressing the Envelope
 Dear Mr. and Mrs. John Doe,  Mr. and Mrs. John Doe

4566 Laurel Lane

Seattle, Washington 98101

Addressing a Business Letter: 

Addressing the letter/ Salutation  Addressing the Envelope

GP and Associates

123 Maple Leaf Way

Miami, Florida 33101

gpassociates@mail.com

 

July 20, 2016

 

Company, Inc.

Mr. John Doe

1789 Bridge Parkway

Denver, Colorado 80123

 

Dear Mr Doe,

Company, Inc

Attn: Mr John Doe

1289 Bridge Parkway

Denver, Colorado 80123

Addressing a Formal Letter to a Doctor: 

Addressing the letter/ Salutation  Addressing the Envelope
 July 20, 2016

 

John Doe, M.D.

Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital

1 North Street, Suite 187

New York, New York 00000

 

Dear Dr. Doe,

 

John Doe, MD

Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital

1 North Street, Suite 187

New York, New York 00000

Address Etiquette

When you use standard conventions for addressing your letter, you can guarantee that your letters are well-received by your recipients. Follow our address etiquette guidelines to answer any other questions you may run into when drafting your letters.

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  • Avoid abbreviations when addressing your letters. For example, common road names should read “Lane,” “Avenue,” “Street,” and so on. States should be written out as well.
  • If you’re addressing your letter in handwriting, make sure that you are writing legibly and with blue or black ink. Design an envelope that even the postal office will be impressed by! You can make addressing your letters a little easier by adding custom return address labels which will save you time writing.
  • When addressing a letter on behalf of a business, use the company’s office address.
  • Add an extra special touch to your outgoing mail. Using personalized stationery will add a creative element to your message and show just how much thought you put into your letter. Custom postage stamps will also give your envelopes the “put-together” touch they need.

Don’t forget to have fun addressing your letters. Sending your thoughts on paper can be exciting and stress free now that you have all the tips and tricks you need. If you’re looking to elevate your letters even more, use our guide on how to create formal address labels to help you customize your letter with style.