Putting the hyphen in "anal-retentive"?
January 30, 2008 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Is this an acceptable format for writing out a business address on a mailing label?

Is this an acceptable format for writing out a business address on a mailing label?

334 Main Street 312

IOW, "312" is the number of our office suite.

I maintain that by not adding a "#" or "Suite. " before the 312, it's potentially confusing to some people who may tend to "skim" through visual data like this.

My coworker, on the other hand is adamant--to the point of being really fucking annoying about it--that there should be no pound sign or "Suite." designation before the actual suite number. If he sees that I've printed a mailing label with a pound sign before the suite number, he tells me to print the label again, without the pound sign, or even goes out of his way to print up a "correct" label himself, and re-doing my work.

The funny thing is, *I'm* supposed to be the one who is more savvy at design and typography than he is (although I don't claim to be a designer or typographer by any stretch of the imagination. I just have a more educated/geeky appreciation for these things). And I can understand being aesthetically anal when it comes to your own personal business cards and whatnot, but these are fucking mailing labels and videocassette labels that are delivered to TV stations, generally to people who give two shits about typographic style.

Any copywriters and/or typographers here care to set me straight?
posted by melorama to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I say your co-worker's plain wrong.

USPS's page on proper address formatting shows the address with the "Ste" designation.

Here is another site about proper address formatting that includes "Ste."
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:10 AM on January 30, 2008

Yes, USPS uses Ste or STE. Its nuts to not include it, or at least a #
posted by Pants! at 12:15 AM on January 30, 2008

Good heavens. I've certainly seen addresses written the way your co-worker favours, but they are not the norm and they are very confusing.

You are right. He is wrong.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:21 AM on January 30, 2008

It violates USPS addressing standards. And yeah, it's annoying and confusing.
posted by grouse at 12:22 AM on January 30, 2008

LobsterMitten is correct. If you want to be a real stickler about this, you can refer to the official USPS document: Publication 28 - Postal Addressing Standards. Specifically, section 213 calls this a "Secondary Address Unit Designator" and says:
Secondary address unit designators, such as APARTMENT or SUITE, are preferred to be printed on the mailpiece for address locations containing secondary unit designators printed on the mailpiece for address locations containing secondary unit designators. The preferred location is at the end of the Delivery Address Line. The pound sign (#) should not be used as a secondary unit designator if the correct designation, such as APT or STE, is known or is shown in the ZIP+4 file.
Appendix C2 of the document contains the complete list of approved designators and their approved abbreviations. The appendix also mentions that if you omit the designator, you are required to use a pound sign (#). Section 213.2 specifies that if the pound sign (#) is used, there must be a space between the pound sign and the secondary number.

So, to be really pedantic, if you know that your business address is officially a suite, the proper "Delivery Address Line" is 334 MAIN ST SUITE 312 or 334 MAIN ST STE 312, otherwise use 334 MAIN ST # 312.
posted by RichardP at 12:49 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming you're in the US, put the address into the USPS address normalizer. Whatever it spits out should be golden.
posted by IvyMike at 12:54 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even if the USPS didn't have a standard, he's wrong.

While the positions of the numbers indicate what category (street number or suite number) they are, labeling the second number with its data type adds clarity.
posted by D.C. at 3:53 AM on January 30, 2008

Your co-worker is insane.
One should always preface a secondary number with a designator, be it "suite" "ste" "#" "apt" or whatever.
Additionally (and this is merely my own preference for handling these things) I would put that secondary data on a separate line, and not run it on the same line as the main address.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:09 AM on January 30, 2008

"Additionally (and this is merely my own preference for handling these things) I would put that secondary data on a separate line, and not run it on the same line as the main address."

As RichardP mentioned above, USPS addressing standards prefer you not to do that. If the address is formatted the way the USPS wants, in theory it might get processed faster, so that's always a good thing. The address normalizer will almost always give you the best possible address to use. (Exceptions: brand new addresses that aren't in their system yet, and, rarely, other addresses that are funky in some way.)

And I agree that the OP's coworker is insane. :)
posted by litlnemo at 4:39 AM on January 30, 2008

(As an aside, one common notation up here in Canada seems to be "312 - 334 Main St". It's always bugged me.)
posted by mendel at 5:11 AM on January 30, 2008

Even if, for some arcane reason, your co-worker considers "suite" or "#" to be inaccurate descriptions of your work address, there should at least be a comma before the 312.
posted by desuetude at 6:00 AM on January 30, 2008

I used to deliver flowers. Not having a datatype designator - "suite" or "#" - really just pissed me off, once I got used to it. Before I got used to it, it confused me.

Oh, and your cow-orker is an idiot.
posted by notsnot at 6:09 AM on January 30, 2008

Just wanted to add that addressing using USPS (or Canada Post for my fellow Canadians) standards - which are mostly the same, by the way - is important because letters are machine sorted, and a divergence from the standards could result in occasional delays. Those delays often occur no matter what you do, but still...
posted by mikel at 6:22 AM on January 30, 2008

Without a comma or delimiter such as "Apt." or "Ste.", that address appears to be number 334 on "Main Street 312".

Granted, there probably isn't more than a single Main Street in town, but I'm the type who would prefer seeing the address on a completely second line:

Coworker Industries
334 Main Street
Suite 312
Anytown, NY 12345
posted by explosion at 6:44 AM on January 30, 2008

At the very least, a comma after Street would go a long way toward making that more readable.
posted by lampoil at 7:03 AM on January 30, 2008

In Canada, the preferred way would be:
312-334 Main St

"#312-334 Main St" or "Apt 312-334 Main St" or "Suite 312-334 Main St" would be wrong, in that format...

But if you're putting the suite number after the street address, the #/Apt/Suite is required. (I rarely see "Ste", probably because it's the short-form for Sainte which is in a lot of francophone street names). IANA postal worker, but I have worked in address integrity and am painfully familiar with addressing formats.
posted by sarahkeebs at 7:14 AM on January 30, 2008

Direct Mail is my business, and it always gets me how anal our customers can be regarding the way the mailing address on their piece looks. Some want the state spelled out completely, some want 'street' or 'avenue' or 'apartment' spelled out because it will make them look like they're smart.

The whole point of a mailing label is to get the piece where you want it to go, and it's always best policy to make it as easy for your friendly mail carrier to deliver it as possible. Besides, if you're submitting your mail list to a direct mailer for processing, the list is run through a process calles CASS certification, which standardizes the address against a list of every mailable address in the US and its territories that the USPS knows about. So 'avenue' ends up being 'Ave' on the final label anyway, whether inkjetted on the piece, included as variable information in a lasered letter, or impact-printed on a peel-and-stick label.

The point is to get it into the mailbox so the recipient can then throw it away, saving the post office the trouble.
posted by DandyRandy at 9:15 AM on January 30, 2008

In Canada we have two notations:

"123 - 456 Main Street" is used out West
"456 Main Street, Suite 123" (or Unit 123, or whatever) is more common back East.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:33 AM on January 30, 2008

Agreeing with what explosion said.
334 Main Street 312
I was handed an address like this once, without a # or suite indicator, and I actually misread it as 334 on "Main Street 312" (was not familiar with the area at all - and place in question all had numbered roads) went to the wrong street AND wrong unit. Took me lots of asking around and confusion before I had it sorted out.
posted by jollyroger at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2008

In Utah there are actually streets that have unvarnished three-digit numbers as their name, so one could see why jollyroger would be confused.
posted by grouse at 12:05 PM on January 30, 2008

Why does your co-worker ( I note you didn't say "boss") get to determine the format of *your* work? Plus, he's nuts.
posted by nax at 1:00 PM on January 30, 2008

Also possibly worth mentioning is the fact that in many other countries, the house number follows the street name. When I mail something off to a friend, I write the label thusly:

Georg-Bonn-Strasse 120
22609 Hamburg

I would be incredibly frustrated with a co-worker who is as ridiculous as yours. He's wrong to object at all, wrong to change it himself, and wrong in his reasoning for why it should be his way.
posted by kosmonaut at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2008

Your coworker is nuts.

But I do admit that I write my own address as

123 Main Street 3N
Anytown, USA

But only because 3N is unmistakable as an apartment number based on my street address.

Also in my own personal style book (informed by my German desire for orderliness) is that the address should always go from most specific to least specific from the top down.

Ron Smith c/o Joe American
The Society for Specific Addressing
Suite 302A
1023 North Main Street
Anytown, State 12345
posted by gjc at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2008

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