Mailing letters and sending “snail mail” may feel like a lost art to most people. The digital age has certainly changed communication needs and preferences. However, many basics pertaining to mail etiquette are still beneficial to know as some “snail mail” is unavoidable, even today.

Perhaps it is a cover letter, a thank you letter sent to a potential employer after a job interview, or a document mailed to the IRS in response to a notice regarding your taxes. No matter the purpose, correct etiquette and knowledge of postage regulations are important. Below are some basics we think everyone can find helpful.

Writing a Letter

Sample LetterBefore you are ready to mail a letter, you must first construct the letter. When it comes to writing, especially for professional purposes, many people wonder where to begin. The content of the letter will certainly vary based on the type and intent of the letter. However, the format rarely changes.

To begin, start with your (the sender’s) name and address in the top-left corner. Depending on the purpose of the letter and your relationship with the recipient, you may also choose to list your company in this section.

Next, write the date the letter is being composed. The date provides references for the recipient and should be formatted to include the month, date, and year.

The sender's information and the date are most often listed in the top-left corner of the letter. However, some people prefer to list them in the top-right corner or even the middle, though center alignment is rare. It really depends on personal preference and the placement of the letterhead on the page. The most important thing to remember is to include the information, rather than how it’s aligned.

Follow the date with the recipient’s name, title, and address. These are to be left aligned along the left margin of the letter. Even though the recipient's name and address are listed on the envelope, including them on the letter is proper etiquette for formal business letters.

Next, begin your letter with a fitting salutation. For a formal letter, be sure to address the recipient with their last name. If you do not know their name, “To Whom It May Concern” is a commonly accepted greeting.

Now, it’s time to compose the body of your letter. Business letters should be direct and use professional language. Fluffy writing and slang language are not appropriate. State the reason for writing and use a fitting tone. The most common format includes an introduction paragraph, then a paragraph explaining the purpose of the letter, followed by a conclusion paragraph. Depending on the type of letter, the last paragraph commonly includes a call to action. Single line spacing is most suitable for professional letters and for easy readability avoid using all caps.

Conclude your letter with an appropriate valediction, such as, sincerely, thank you, regards, or kindly. Followed by your signature. It is common to leave space to sign the letter while also typing your name.

Lastly, if your letter references attached documents, you should list the enclosed pages at the bottom of your letter.

Additional things to remember when composing your letter:

  • Use a business font. Common choices include Times New Roman, Futura, Georgia, and Cambria.
  • The letter text should be left justified.

Properly Addressing Your Mail Piece

Properly Addressed Envelope SampleNow that your letter is written, you may be wondering “how do you write an address correctly?” This is a valid question. Ensuring that your letter is addressed correctly is extremely important to guarantee prompt and accurate delivery.

To begin addressing a letter to someone, write your (the Sender’s) name and address in the top-left corner of the envelope. This is the return address. If the letter is undeliverable to the recipient, it will be returned to this address. The return address is sometimes listed on the back flap of the envelope instead of the front, upper left-hand corner. However, for professional and business letters, the front of the card is most appropriate.

The center of the envelope is reserved for the recipient’s name and delivery address. Their name should be listed on the top line. Followed by the street address or Post Office box on the next line and the city, state, and zip code on the last line.

The United States Postal Service’s (USPS) mail sorting machines read envelopes from the bottom up and they will only read six lines. Therefore, correctly addressing the envelope is extremely important to ensure deliverability; especially, the zip code and state. The machine will only read the first two letters of the state. This means it is proper protocol to use the state’s abbreviation, versus writing out the state fully. For example, if an envelope is addressed to Arizona the machine will read AR and sort it for Arkansas. Since the machine reads the zip code first, it will still likely get delivered correctly. Although, it’s best to eliminate any confusion.

Certified Mail Labels bridges the gap between traditional “snail mail” and the digital age. Avoid any confusion when addressing your letters by utilizing Certified Mail Labels for all your Certified Mail® needs. Our site prompts you with the necessary information and generates the correct label for you.

Users receive 'proof of mailing', acceptance by the United States Postal Service, USPS tracking, Electronic Delivery Confirmation, and Return Receipt Signature for each compliance letter sent at no additional cost.

Must-Know Mail Regulations and FAQ’s

Below is a list of commonly asked questions regarding mail regulations that we think you will find helpful.

What are the rules for mailing a letter?

According to USPS, a letter envelope should be flat and flexible. Sending a letter envelope is meant for cards, forms, documents, and other such papers. Envelopes should be machinable, which means they can be fed through the processing meter. If an envelope is not flat or has attachments on the outside preventing it from being run through the machine, there is an added $1.03 non-machinable surcharge. Letters should not exceed 11-1/2" inches long x 6-1/8" inches high. A standard #10 envelope is measured at 9-1/2" inches long x 4-1/8" inches high.

Certified Mail Labels offers only the highest-quality envelopes. Regardless of the recent paper shortage, our heavy-grade paper (28lb.) envelopes are sturdy and machinable. For more USPS rules for mailing a letter, click here.

What is not allowed to send in the mail?

USPS has a list of items that you are prohibited from mailing. You cannot mail explosives, marijuana, ammunition, gasoline, or airbags as they are unsafe to ship.

What are you allowed to mail in an envelope?

While USPS prohibits the mailing of the few items listed above, they restrict the mailing of others. If an item is restricted, it means you must follow the rules set by USPS when sending. Some restricted items include alcohol, live animals, and batteries. To view the full list, click here.

What are the classes of mail?

The USPS offers several different services, which they describe as classes. Each class meets specific needs and has set postage rates. Create USPS Certified Mail® labels, Priority Mail labels, and Express Mail labels with USPS Postage online while saving time and money with Certified Mail Labels. Purchasing your Certified Mail Labels online and skipping a trip to the Post Office will save you $2.75 per mailing off the old-fashioned green cards and forms. What does Certified Mail cost with Certified Mail Labels?

To view a list of USPS classes, click here.

About Certified Mail Labels

Certified Mail Labels allows users to create USPS Certified Mail® Labels, Priority Mail labels, and Express Mail labels with USPS Postage online from the comfort of their home or office. Senders receive proof of mailing, letter tracking, and delivery confirmation while saving $2.75 on every certified letter sent with Certified Mail Labels.

Pay as you mail and skip the trip to the Post Office completely. With no monthly fees, contracts, or special equipment Certified Mail Labels offers convenience and peace of mind. There is no longer a need for stickers, forms, and green cards.

Our bank-grade encryption provides safe and secure online storage for organized record keeping. User account archives include proof of mailing, USPS tracking, Electronic Delivery Confirmation, and Return Receipt Signature for ten years at no additional cost.

Certified Mail Labels began in 2006 by working with the U.S. Postal Service to automate USPS Certified Mail online. We pioneered the first Electronic Signatures, automated web services to address, mail, track and report critical business communications. Certified Mail Labels has since grown to become the industry leader in online Certified Mail processing with over 250 million transactions completed.

Creating an account, now! Learn more about Certified Mail Labels.

Additional Resources

5 Frequently Asked Questions About the United States Postal Service
Avoid These Common Postage Mistakes with Certified Mail
Frequently Asked Questions