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Letters Against Isolation Mailing Guidelines

This week on the blog, one of our fantastic volunteers, Marsha, is sharing some of the tips and tricks she has found for mailing letters and cards to LAI's seniors. Thanks Marsha for the tips, and have fun writing everyone!


The United States Postal Service processed and delivered an average of 425.3 million mail pieces DAILY in 2021. Quite impressive!

Massive high-speed sorting machines process conveyor belts of mail through the system. OCR (optical character recognition) software quickly reads the addresses and routes mail to its next destination. Envelopes and packages with illegible addresses are kicked out and manually processed by humans.

In the United States, LAI volunteers place thousands of letters in the mail distribution system every two weeks. Using some USPS guidelines, we have an opportunity to speed our mail along.


Following are some tips I learned from the post office:

  • Choose sturdy, standard-size packaging for your letters and keep envelopes as thin and flat as possible. Lumps and bumps can get caught and torn in processing machinery.

  • Seal packages well using durable clear tape to close openings instead of staples that can be torn from the envelope.

  • Avoid flowery handwriting to address packages. Use black ink or marker. There should be a strong contrast between the ink color and the envelope color. If in doubt, print the address on a white label.

  • Print or type addresses in capital letters with no punctuation and use established abbreviations, which are linked here.

  • Use two-letter state abbreviations, which are linked here.

  • Use Zip+4 Codes. To find the Zip+4 designation for a location, check here.

  • Leave the entire lower 5/8” of an envelope blank. OCR software reads mailing addresses from the “bottom” up. Keeping the lower section blank allows the OCR readers to clearly understand where an address begins. Save stickers and artwork for the backs of envelopes.

  • Include a return address to allow returns to you by USPS. Consider placing a return address both inside and outside the package.

  • Include a note to the site contact letting them know who you are and why they have received a package of letters.

  • Calculate proper postage and affix it well. If in doubt, visit your local post office.



Must you follow these guidelines, of course not! There are no address police. Will your package reach its intended recipient? Highly likely. Want to give your package a better chance of moving quickly to our seniors? Consider trying these ideas.

Have other tips and tricks? Please reach out to our volunteer coordinators! You can find their emails and areas of speciality here.

Happy writing! Marsha

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown
Mar 07, 2023

Thank you, very helpful!


Thanks, Marsha, this is a great post. Useful info and I always love links! I've bookmarked this page, just in case. 😊


Patricia Hetland
Patricia Hetland
Jun 13, 2022

This is such a helpful post. I refer back to it every time I send out letters. Thanks, Marsha.


Great info - thanks, Marsha!

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