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A Customer's Guide to Mailing: Addressing Your Mail

The accuracy of the address affects the speed and handling of your mail.

Return Address

Print or type your address in the upper left corner on the front of the envelope.

Extra Services

Place labels for extra services above the delivery address and to the right of the return address, or to the left of the postage.

Elements of Addressing

Clear Space

A clear space must be available on all mail for the address, postage (permit imprint, postage stamp, or meter stamp), postmarks, and postal endorsements.

Delivery Address

The delivery address specifies the location to which the USPS is to deliver a mailpiece. Except for mail prepared with detached address labels under 4.0, the piece must have the address of the intended recipient, visible and legible, only on the side of the piece bearing postage.


Dual Address

Mail with a dual address (both a street address and a Post Office box number) is delivered to the address immediately above the city and state (or to the Post Office box if both the street address and Post Office box are on the same line). If a ZIP+4 code or 5-digit ZIP Code is used, it must correspond to the address element immediately above the city and state (or with the Post Office box number in the address if both the street address and Post Office box are on the same line). These restrictions also apply to return addresses on mail.

Use of Alternative Addressing

General Information


Alternative addressing formats may be used as described in 3.2 through 3.4 in Use of Alternative Addressing.

Prohibited Use

Alternative addressing formats may not be used on:

  1. Express Mail pieces.
  2. Mail with any ancillary service endorsement under 507.1.1 through 507.1.8.
  3. Periodicals intended to count as subscriber or requester copies to meet the applicable circulation standards.
  4. Mail addressed to an overseas military Post Office under 703.2.2.
  5. The following extra services:
    1. Registered Mail.
    2. Certified Mail.
    3. Insured mail.
    4. Return receipt.
    5. Restricted delivery.
    6. Return receipt for merchandise.
    7. Signature Confirmation.
    8. Collect on delivery (COD).

Detached Address Labels (DALs)



For these standards, item(s) refers inclusively to the types of mail described in 4.1.2 through 4.1.4.

Periodicals or Standard Mail Flats Saturation Mailings

Saturation mailings of unaddressed Periodicals or Standard Mail flats may be mailed with detached address labels (DALs). DALs accompanying saturation mailings of Periodicals or Standard Mail flats must be automation-compatible under 201.3.0. This standard does not apply to DALs with simplified addressing. For this standard, saturation mailing means a mailing sent to at least 75% of the total addresses on a carrier route or 90% of the residential addresses on a route, whichever is less. Deliveries are not required to every carrier route of a delivery unit. Saturation flats mailings presented with DALs that are not automation-compatible and barcoded do not qualify for saturation prices. Instead they may be entered at the Periodicals basic carrier route price or the Standard Mail basic Enhanced Carrier Route price.

Standardized Delivery Address Line and Last Line

The Delivery Address Line and the Last Line of addresses output to the mailpiece should be complete, standardized, and validated with the ZIP+4 file and City State file, respectively.

ZIP Code Accuracy Standards

Basic Standards

Except for mail bearing a simplified address, addresses used on pieces in a mailing at commercial First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service presorted parcel, Standard Mail, and Bound Printed Matter presorted and carrier route prices are subject to the ZIP Code accuracy standard and must meet these requirements:

  1. must be verified and corrected within 12 months before the mailing date with one of the USPS-approved methods in 6.2.
  2. verified and corrected with an approved method, the same address may be used during the following 12 months to meet the ZIP Code accuracy standard required for mailing at any other class of mail and price.