Simple Tips for How to Address a Letter
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.
Follow an official letter format when writing formal letters
In English there are a number of official letter format conventions that should be used when formatting a formal or business letter. Furthermore, you try to write as simply and as clearly as possible, and not to make the letter longer than necessary. Remember not to use informal language like contractions.
1) Include your name and contact information
The return address should be written in the top right-hand corner of a formal letter. This will usually your address, but could be any other address to which a reply should be sent.
2) Include the recipient’s name and address
Add the address of the person you are writing to. The recipient’s address should be written on the left, often starting below your address. If you are going to print and post the letter using a windowed envelope, make sure you align this address with the clear plastic window.
3) Include the date
Different people put the date on different sides of the page. You can write this on the right or the left on the line after the address you are writing to. Write the month as a word.
4) Use the right salutation
The tip to starting a formal English letter is to greet the person you’re writing to in the correct way. This is known as the Salutation. If you know the name of the person you’re writing to then use ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ here, otherwise write their full name, including their title. Remember, try not to be too informal or casual.
b) If you know the name, use the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, etc.) and the family name only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for both married and single women.
5) Create the body of your formal letter
The first paragraph should be kept short and is designed to introduce you and to state the purpose of the letter- to make an enquiry, complain, request something, etc.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- In a traditional address for a married couple who share the same last name, only use the last name once. Address a married couple using “Mr.” and “Mrs.” followed by the shared last name. For example, “Mr. and Mrs. Doe.”
- Address a couple that lives together with their appropriate titles joined together with “and.” For example, “Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Mark.”
- When addressing an entire family use the family’s last name preceded by “The.” For example, “The Smiths.”
- 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. Jane Doe.”
- Use a general salutation when addressing a letter with no contact person. For example, “To Whom it May Concern,” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”
How to Address a Cover Letter for a Non-Gender-Specific Name
If you do have a name but aren’t sure of the person’s gender, one option is to include both the first name and the last name in your salutation, without a title that reveals gender:
With these types of gender-ambiguous names, LinkedIn can be a helpful resource. Since many people include a photo with their profile, a simple search of the person’s name and company within LinkedIn could potentially turn up the contact’s photograph.
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:
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.
- 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.
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.
Group Emails and Letters
Regardless of your relationship with one person at a company, if you are sending an email to additional people in a group email, it is usually best to use a formal style. If you are using cc (carbon copy), address only the person or people in the "To" field of your letter and not the people who are in the "cc" field.
Similarly, always use a formal business-writing style when writing a letter attachment regardless of your relationship with the person being addressed. Not only does this show your respect to the person, but letters are often considered to be written from one business to another rather than one person to another, so it shows respect for the organization as well.