What is a Return Address?

If you’ve been mailing items for a while, you must have come across this phrase many times. Even though this term is common, many new and seasoned shippers may not fully understand what it is, what it does, why it is necessary, and how to use it properly.

Keep Reading to learn more.

What Does a Return Address Mean?

When sending mail via postal service, a return address explicitly includes the sender’s address. It gives the recipient (and occasionally authorized intermediaries) a way to decide how to respond to the sender, if necessary.

The return address, like the delivery address, should include an address or P.O. box number. The return address is typically found in the upper left-hand corner of an envelope, card, or label in the United States. A return address is frequently pre-printed on envelopes used by businesses. 

Many people have pre-printed sheets of adhesive labels with their home addresses to attach to their correspondence. Such sheets are occasionally sent out in mailshots by charities. Rolls of return address labels are available from businesses that sell personalized labels, making it simple for people to peel and stick return address labels to their envelopes.

Why is Return Address Important?

A return address is required because it is simple for mail to get misplaced. Even though including a return address does not ensure that the mail will reach the intended recipient, it does ensure that, if it does not, the mail will be returned to the sender. Once the mail is in the hands of the original sender, she can resend it, ideally after resolving the issue that prevented it from reaching its intended recipient the first time.

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What Is The Proper Way to Write a Return Address?

Understanding what a return address is and why you need it is beneficial. But, what’s more, important is actually writing it correctly. Here are the best practices for including a return address on a letter.

Placing the Return Address Correctly

The return address should be placed in the envelope’s upper left corner, per U.S. Postal Service guidelines. Please ensure the longest sides of the envelope are on the top and bottom before you address it. The delivery address is in the center, with the return address in the top left corner and the stamp in the top right.

What Information Should Be Included

A return address must be specific enough to get your mail back quickly. Your name, address, city, state, and ZIP code are required, along with any applicable apartment or suite numbers, just like the delivery address. Use a blue or black pen or a printed address label. The company’s logo may be placed next to the return address on business envelopes.

Large Packages and Letters

Use an address label if you’re working with big envelopes and packages. The post office offers labels for services like Express mail and Priority Mail, and the delivery and return addresses are listed on these labels. Consider these labels like envelopes, with the delivery address in the middle and the return address in the top left corner.

Exception for Formal Invitations

When sending formal invitations to occasions like weddings or graduations, it is common practice to print the return address on the opposite side of the envelope from the delivery address. To ensure a smooth return process, if required, the post office strongly advises you to write the return address and delivery address on the same side.

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Can I send a package without a return address? 

According to USPS, a return address is unnecessary for regular postal mail. Aside from omitting the return address, the process for shipping packages without a return address is the same as for sending shipments with one. However, it is advisable to include it to get your mail back if it is undelivered.

How should a return address be written on an apartment?

The traditional way to write an apartment address is on three lines. It would be best if you wrote your name on the first line. You will then write the street and number, a comma, and your apartment number on the second line. On the bottom line, you will finally include your city, state, and zip code.

How do I send mail back to the sender?

It’s probably more straightforward than you think to dispose of mail that’s not yours legally if you’re unsure what to do with it. You only have to resend the envelope by writing “RETURN TO SENDER” on the front, and the rest will be handled for you by your postal worker.


If you’re sending a package, it is essential to include the return address so that your recipient or the post office knows where to send the item back. Adding a return address may not be compulsory, but it is helpful when your mail cannot be delivered for whatever reason.

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