There is a huge variance in postal address formats throughout the world, with differences between but also within countries. On a macro level there are at least 130 different postal address formats in use on the planet. Taking into account more minor differences, the number is much greater.
Mailing addresses are those addresses which do not contain a delivery point related to the physical location of the receiver. A mailing address may also be a physical location (e.g. post office boxes) or a mailing or routing methodology (e.g. Poste Restante). Mailing addresses are usually similar to street addresses but with the street name, building number and sub-building section(s) replaced with the mailing address indicator and (often) a number or code. Mailing address "destinations" include:
Community Mail Box Counter delivery General Delivery Mailbag Mailbox Post office box Postal Mailbag Postbag Poste Restante Private Mailbag Rural Route
Components of a large-user address
Components of an unstructured address
Components of a military address
Enclaves and Exclaves
An enclave is a piece of land which is totally surrounded by a foreign territory, and an exclave is one which is politically attached to a larger piece but not actually contiguous with it. There are many enclaves and exclaves in the world, caused by geographic, political and historical anomalies. In many cases their inhabitants, when there are any, share the same addressing forms and formats as the non-contiguous relation, but in a small number of cases its geography affects its addressing. Read more here
Example: The centre of the city of Mannheim, Germany in postal code area 68, is built on a grid system where few of the streets are names. The building blocks have been given a letter and number between A1 and U6, and buildings are number within these blocks. An address in this part of Mannheim will therefore contain a line in the form:
instead of a street name. The whole block may take this form:
Universität Mannheim A5, 6 68159 MANNHEIM
A block address in Mannheim
Example: Germantown and Menomonee Falls in Wisconsin, United States of American, used map co-ordinates instead of building numbers:
N96 W18200 County Line Rd GERMANTOWN WI 53022 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
W124N8145 Hwy 145 MENOMONEE FALLS WI 53051 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Example: Central parts of Carmel-by-the-Sea in California, USA, have chosen not to have traditional postal addresses and mail has to be collected by residents from the central post office. Cross street addressing, such as NE Ocean and Lincoln (Harrison Memorial Library) are used. Another format used for geographical addressing lists the street, cross street, and the number of houses from the intersection. For example, in the case of the Golden Bough Playhouse, its address Monte Verde 4SW of 8th translates to the building on the West side of Monte Verde Street four properties south of the 8th Avenue intersection.
Example: Many streets in the state of Utah, USA, are named using map co-ordinates. Some of these may have an additional/alternative, "normal", name:
Example: Street names in Portland, Oregon, USA, commence with a directional (N, NE, NW, SE or SW). In most other United States' addresses, any directional follows the street name.
It is a myth that an address is "deliverable" only if it matched the postal requirements of the country concerned. "Deliverability" is unmeasurable, unscientific and has little basis in reality. For more information:
Example: A mailpiece containing this address was delivered within 2 days:
Mr & Mrs T Burlingham? Near the golf course in Thetford, Norfolk. Trevor is a photographer. This might help
Example: The mailpiece arrived:
Vukasin 6 years and Jelisaveta 3 years I don't know the family name PRUSKA GORA SERBIA Their father is big, he drives a Citroën Belingo. He works on the little trains for tourists. Postman: Please find them!
Inform yourself of the differences in postal address formats within different countries and regions
It is a myth that addresses are always written from most specific to least specific element (e.g. from person's name to country name), or vice versa.
The world is dynamic. Countries come and go, postal systems change etc. Your system must be maintained and equally dynamic
Field lengths: do not underestimate the length of postal address elements.
Data collection: do not use static forms to collect postal address data. The elements should be presented in the order in which they are normally written in the country/region concerned. Ask language and country first, then dynamically coinstruct the form to fit those parameters.
A string within a postal address should be looked at in context, as the same string can mean different things in different contexts. For example; Park Road, Regents Park, Primrose Hill, Graham Hill Road and so on. Street indicates a thoroughfare type, but also a town in the United Kingdom
Addresses do contain punctuation, and not just to indicate line breaks. Punctuation makes the address better formatted and more readable for the customer, but also as an indication of what the elements indicate. In a building number, for example, a hyphen (-) may indicate a sub-building indicator whilst a slash (/) may indicate a number range. This differs by country and region. It is essential that addresses are punctuated correctly, that input forms allow punctuation to be added, and that no processes strip or remove punctuation.
One or more parts of an address may be written in different languages or in more than one language.
A thoroughfare name place in both Italian and Catalan, Alghero, Sardinia, Italy
Address blocks may contain more lines than you expect. Systems that limit lines to, for example, 5, cannot store all addresses. For example:
GB Technical Services Unit W7A Warwick House 18 Forge Lane Minworth Industrial Park Minworth SUTTON COLDFIELD B76 1AH UNITED KINGDOM
Addresses may contain more characters than you expect. The "longest" address in the UK, for example, is:
Department for Environment,Food and Rural Affairs (D.E.F.R.A.), State Veterinary Service Animal Health Office Hadrian House Wavell Drive Rosehill Industrial Estbate CARLISLE CA1 2TB