How to send a letter by post? Mailing within the US and abroad

Despite the development and popularization of Internet technologies, sending traditional letters is still in demand. You can write a letter by hand, pack it in an envelope and mail it anywhere in the US or in the world.

For more information about sending parcels, see our articles “How to send a parcel within the USA?” and “How to send a package from the US abroad?“.

How to mail a letter?

Sending letters does not necessarily mean writing from one person to another. In general, it can be any paper item that fits in an envelope: cards, checks, forms, documents, etc. To send it within the United States or abroad you should follow such instruction:

  1. Choose an envelope.
  2. Address the mail.
  3. Pay stamp and shipping.
  4. Send a letter in a convenient way.

Let’s consider each step separately, and also compare the features of sending domestic and international letters.

Step 1. Choose what envelope is appropriate.

Postal companies have a number of requirements regarding the envelope, so before packing, you need to make sure that it meets them. Using the USPS as an example, look at the most important requirements:

  1. The size.

It is better to clarify the allowable envelope sizes in the postal which services you are going to use. In case with USPS there are such requirements as:

Type of envelope Maximum/appropriate size
Any envelope 11-1/2″ long x 6-1/8″ high
A standard No. 10 envelope 9-1/2″ long x 4-1/8″ high
Postcards with no envelope From 5″ to 6″ long and from 3-1/2″ to 4-1/4″ high (from 0.007″ to 0.016″ thick)


Letter-sized papers without folding them can be sent in a large envelope called a “flat”, but it requires bigger postage.

The content of the envelope must be flat, so that it was no more than 1/4″ thick.

  1. The form.

Envelopes must be rectangular and horizontal, so that the height is less than the width. Square or vertical envelopes are accepted, but for an additional fee (+$0.30 more to send the letter by USPS).

  1. The material.

The envelope must be made of such paper, so that it could bend if necessary.

Step 2. Address a letter.

To send a letter you also have to address the mail correctly. To do this you need to follow such instruction:

  • Write sender’s address in the top left corner.
  • Write delivery address and another recipient’s data in the bottom center.

How to address a letterTo address a postcards write the delivery address in the space it gives you. As usual it is on the side where you write the message and put the stamp.

There are several rules for correct addressing the mail:

  1. Addresses must be printed neatly in capital letters.
  2. There must be no commas or periods in addresses.
  3. Include ZIP codes (ZIP+4 code, if possible).

You can check your ZIP code by the tool “What is my ZIP code?” or use our ZIP codes lookup for searching other postal codes in USA.

Step 3. Pay for the stamp and postage of the letter.

The stamp, you need to glue in the upper right corner of the envelope, firstly must be paid. Its cost may vary:

— $0.58 for “First-Class Mail Forever” stamp of USPS;

— $0.40 for a standard postcard stamp of USPS.

You’ll pay more if your letter/postcard is heavier or bigger as well as in case you want to add extra services.

Postage for a letter often depends on its weight, size shape. Usually for sending letters less than 1 oz it is enough to pay for one “First-Class Mail Forever” stamp. The exception is large envelope (or flat). Such postage starts at $1.16 for 1 oz. To calculate exact price you can use USPS calculator.

Step 4. Choose the most appropriate way to send a mail.

Now you are ready to know how to send mails in the United States. It is possible in different ways:

  1. Send a letter

    by in a blue collection box.

All you need is to place your letter in the slot of blue USPS mailbox. You should open it near the top and close it after placing the envelope or postcard.

  1. Send mail by your own mailbox.

If you have a mailbox near your home, you can use it in the same way. To alert your mail carrier you should move the red flag out of the mailbox. To do it rotate the flag up or pull the flag out.

  1. Bring your letter to the post office.

Give it to a postal clerk and pay for the postage if you’ve not done it earlier.

How to send letters abroad?

In general, the procedure for sending letters outside the United States is very similar to the one we described above. However, there are some differences.

To send a letter to one of US territories follow the same instruction as for the domestic shipping.

  • The first feature that distinguishes the sending of domestic letters from international is address format. There is no single format for international mailing. It is different for each country. Write the delivery address in English or use another language (in this case add the English translation after each line).
  • The second difference is the cost of an international postage. You need to pay for one First-Class Mail International Global Forever stamp, which costs $1.30, if you’re sending 1 oz letter or postcard to any country in the world. The postage for an envelope with bigger size (or flat) will be different. It starts at $2.60 for 1 oz.

The postage on international mails will cost more if you use extra services or the letter does not meet standard mail criteria.

Now you know how to mailing a letter within the USA or abroad. Thanks for attention!

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