USPS Postal Addressing Standards

Proper Addressing for Shipping Services

Have you ever given much thought to the address you write on envelope? If you are like most people, the answer is “no.” Would you be surprised to know that the US Postal Service has developed a code of standards for addressing mail within the postal system? Known as Publication 28, the code is 208 pages long and contains three chapters and eight appendices, of which four are dedicated to postal abbreviations, three for English terms, one for Spanish terms. The standards are regularly revised by the USPS, with the last revision issued in April 2010. With such an elaborate system, you might wonder how mail is delivered because the vast majority of the general public surely does not know all of the standards for addressing mail. Fortunately, there is no punishment associated with improperly addressing mail in the United States. In fact, the word “recommend” appears nearly 30 times in various forms throughout Publication 28. So, why bother establishing such an elaborate code of postal standards if they are only “recommended?” It is all about getting packages and letters delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. To this end, the USPS has developed sophisticated technology to “read” addresses. They have spent billions on address correction technology, while UPS and FedEx still manually correct addresses (at a rate of $10 per correction). To be fair, UPS and FedEx both offer one-click address verification at the point of shipping with their desktop and online software that is aimed at reducing these charges and moving shipments smoothly through their networks. A little care at the point of shipping can eliminate a lot frustration later on.

Proper addressing is even more important in the same day industry to expedite shipments with higher urgency. When a rush shipment has a two-hour window that includes dispatch, pick up and delivery, there is little room for error. Improperly addressing your shipment could result in your shipment missing its deadline. Look to your courier to provide technology solutions that compare the address you provide against the USPS database to ensure that it meets the recommended standards and your delivery arrives on time…and at the right location.

Please feel free to post any questions or advice you might have in this regard. We will respond in turn.

If you are curious, the entire document is available for download from the US Postal Service website: pe.usps.gov/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub28/pub28.pdf. You might keep a copy on your nightstand to battle severe bouts of insomnia.