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Addressing Your Envelope? How Complete and Standard Addresses are Defined by the USPS®

The USPS® has specific guidelines in place when it comes to properly addressing an envelope.
By Rick Egli

The USPS® delivers roughly 167 million envelopes every day, an impressive volume that is made possible in part by strict requirements that outline how to properly address an envelope. These requirements, as outlined by the Postal Service™, not only help with on time delivery, but they can also help mailers qualify for lower prices.  

This blog outlines two of the requirements regarding addressing your envelope: using an address that is complete and standardized.  

What is a Complete Address? 

The Postal Service defines a complete address as one that “has all the address elements necessary to allow an exact match with the current Postal Service ZIP+4® and City State files to obtain the finest level of ZIP+4 and delivery point codes for the delivery address.”  In short, a complete address must include all the information necessary for delivery.

What are the Elements of a Complete address?  

In order to ensure the exact match to the current Postal Service ZIP+4 and City State files, the address: 

  • How to address an envelopeContains three required address lines, in order, from top to bottom:   
  1. Recipient line (personal name or organizational name)  
  2. Delivery address line (street address) 
  3. Last line (city, state, and ZIP Code™ line)  
  • how to address an envelopeCan also include an optional attention line above the recipient line 
  • Is typically also a standardized address 

A complete address ensures that all the necessary information about the delivery point is provided to the USPS. It allows the mailpiece to be sorted to the finest level of sortation, like ZIP+4 or delivery point sortation. 


What is a Standardized Address? 

how to and how not to address an envelopeA standardized address is one that uses the USPS-required formats and abbreviations. While a complete address covers what’s in the address, a standardized address refers to how it is formatted. 

The USPS definition of a standardized address is “one that is fully spelled out, abbreviated using the Postal Service™ standard abbreviations . . . or as shown in the current Postal Service ZIP+4 file." It does not have to include punctuation, except for the hyphen in a 9-digit ZIP Code. 

Contact Tension  

The experts at Tension are well-versed in how to best manage your envelope print project to achieve your business goals. Contact us today to get started. 

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