We recently finished up our wedding invitations. We did the invitations ourselves, which involved finding stationary, figuring out the content, printing everything, and getting it all assembled in to envelopes. We both worked on the content and layout for each component of the invitation. Our parents helped us collect mailing addresses, but I also have to thank Facebook for helping out with that too. I purchased the massive quantities of postage we needed. Karen handled addressing all of the envelopes by hand. I handled printing everything as well as figuring out the return address labels. We used OpenOffice on Fedora Linux, which caused a bit of frustration, but really if we had been using any other office software, it would have been just as frustrating. As I told Karen, I am incapable of using office software (which she finds amusing because I work with computers, but I tell her it's just not the same as what I do).
But most importantly: invitations are done!
During the addressing phase, I learned more about preferred USPS addressing formats. Yeah, this is real edge-of-your-seat reading, I know. For starters, I was already familiar with the request by the USPS that addresses appear in all caps, no punctuation (except the hyphen in ZIP+4 codes or in street addresses), and using approved USPS short forms for types, directionals, and common words. The address should be left justified in the center of a #10 envelope, except centered is pretty loose since the scanners can pick it up from most anywhere on the front of an envelope. The return address is to be written in the same manner, but aligned to the upper left corner of the envelope. Postage is aligned to the upper right corner.
I learned some more specifics about preferred addressing and corrected some things I had wrong. For example:
- Directionals are to be abbreviated as N=North, S=South, W=West, and E=East. If you have an intermediate directional, use the same letters to abbreviate, but put a space between them. This is a really common mistake. Instead of writing NW, you need to write N W.
- Do not use the hash mark for the secondary unit number. If you know the secondary unit type, you need to use the abbreviation and then the number, e.g. APT 603. For each deliverable address, the USPS keeps normalized addresses in a database. They prefer you use those addresses on mailings. If you live in an apartment, but the USPS has your address listed as SUITE 603, you need to use SUITE 603 on your address. You can figure out your normalized address by looking it up on the USPS web site.
- If you DO need to use a hash mark for the secondary unit number because you don't know what abbreviation you should use, put a space between the hash and the number, e.g. # 603.
- Do not write a comma between the place name and the state abbreviation on the last line. Instead of writing HONOLULU, HI you need to write HONOLULU HI.
- The hyphen is allowed in ZIP+4 codes and unit numbers (but only when it is part of the official unit number).
- Only put a single space between the state abbreviation and the ZIP code. I did know this, but I feel it's worth mentioning as the USPS preferred method conflicts with business and personal letter writing styles that we are all taught in school.
- Another I do know, but feel is worth mentioning are state and territory abbreviations. You need to use the two character USPS abbreviations and not GPO abbreviations that were taught thousands of years ago in school. That means writing AL instead of "Ala." and MA instead of "Mass."
- Addresses are scanned from right to left and from bottom to top, which means the most significant information is at the bottom right corner of the address, which is the ZIP+4 code. If you have other lines of information you want on the mailing, place it on the top lines. The general rule I've picked out of the USPS information is that there are 4 important lines on an address and everything else is extra (this is only true for personal mailing, not business mailing). That's the list line, secondary address line, delivery address lines, and the recipient line.
- Another I know, but want to point out. The city/state/zip line is really last line name/state/zip. The last line name does not necessarily correspond to city names. Last line names are assigned by the USPS and reflect city, town, CDP, or region names. You need to use the correct place name for your ZIP code, which may or may not correspond to the actual city or town you live in (though it may be an honoured exception).
I started looking this information up because while we were addressing invitations, Karen wanted the return address label on the back flap of the envelope and I wanted it in the upper left corner. I was trying to see if the back flap was acceptable. No conclusive answer found, but since it is not specifically stated, I can only assume it's not preferred.
What are the advantages to using preferred USPS addressing? More accurrate and faster deliveries. The USPS is extremely flexible when it comes to addresses, so these are not rules, they just ask that people follow them because it speeds up processing. It helps them help you.
Would you like to know more? Check out USPS Publication 28. It's a page turner, that's for sure.