Envelope Addressing Etiquette

How to Address an Envelope

You’ve already written your letter or picked out the perfect card—all that’s left is to address the envelope and drop it in the mail. But nowadays, the proper etiquette for addressing an envelope isn’t as straightforward as it used to be, and there are likely a host of situations that you want to acknowledge. Perhaps your friend lives with her husband but didn’t take his name. Or you are sending a card to a same-sex couple who has not unified their names. How would you address cards to them? See below for these scenarios and more: Just click on the appropriate sending situation to learn the etiquette for how to address an envelope for everyone on your card list.

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Unmarried Recipients  

Unmarried woman
Miss/Ms. Jane Smith

Tip: Miss and Ms. are generally interchangeable—it’s all about your preference.

Unmarried woman with military title
Colonel Jane Smith, U.S. Navy

Unmarried man
Mr. John Doe

Unmarried man with military title
Colonel John Doe, U.S. Navy

Unmarried couple living together
Miss/Ms. Jane Doe
Mr. John Smith

Tip: When addressing a card to an unmarried couple that lives together, the names are traditionally listed in alphabetical order. Don’t use the word “and” as it typically implies that the people listed are married.

Married Recipients  

Married couple with different last names
Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Doe

Married couple with same last name
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe

Married couple with military title for man
Colonel and Mrs. John Doe

Married couple with military title for woman
Lieutenant Amy Fine, U.S. Army and Mr. Mark Fine

Married judge with wife
The Honorable and Mrs. Patrick O’Malley

Married judge with husband
The Honorable Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe

Married couple both doctors
Doctors Jason and Emily Thompson

Tip: When a married couple has different last names, it is traditional for the wife’s name to be listed first on an envelope. Using the word “and” implies that they are married.

Same-sex Couples  

Tip: The rules for addressing envelopes to same-sex couples are pretty straightforward and easy to remember. If you don’t want to use the titles (Ms., Mr.) you aren’t required to do so. You can just use their names.

Unmarried same-sex couple living together
Mr. Adam Richards
Mr. John Smith

Ms. Ann Butler
Ms. Jane Doe

Tip: The rule for sending a card to an unmarried same-sex couple who are living together is almost identical to the rule for a heterosexual couple. Be sure to list the names in alphabetical order.

Married same-sex couple with different last names
Ms. Emily Clark and Ms. Kathy Wright

Tip: If the couple is married, list their names on the same line, and apply the alphabetical rule for listing last names and include titles.

Married same-sex couple with same last name
Mmes. Ann and Jane Butler
Messrs. Adam and John Richards

Tip: If you are sending a card to a couple who share the same last name, refer to them in the plural as “Messrs.” or “Mmes.,” followed by both of their first names and the shared last name.

Divorced Recipients  

Divorced woman who uses her married name
Mrs./Ms. Jane Rogers

Divorced woman who uses her maiden name
Miss/Ms. Jane Brumley

Widowed Recipients  

Mrs. John Doe

Other Scenarios  

Medical Doctor (unmarried or married) man or woman
Doctor James Rivers (or) Doctor Lisa Merritt

Doctor (PhD)
Dr. Bronson Demmerling

The Reverend Robert Jordan