This is one of the oft-most asked questions, and there is actually some disagreement out there on this topic. I’ve actually looked around to try and find a truly definitive reference with no luck, so here is what I believe to be an offense-proof and sensible guide to addressing envelopes:
- Use titles, not professional abbreviations: Dr. Mary Rogers, not Mary Rogers, M.D.
- If you are sending invitations to a formal event, spell it out: Mister John Martin, junior, rather than Mr. John Martin, Jr.
- If you’re sending a card to someone’s office, address it to the recipient alone. This handily avoids most of the following rules and considerations, and will probably cover most of your business correspondence.
If you are more familiar with the recipient, you may send a card to their home. In this case, you need to address it to the recipient and their spouse, partner, and/ or family. This is where things get tricky.
- The default address style for married couples is Mr. & Mrs. Bob Smith.
- For an unmarried couple, write both names fully, on separate lines, in last-name alphabetical order:
- If a couple is in the military, put the highest ranking name first, regardless of gender: Lieutenant Sandra Mark and Seargant Bill Mark
- If the wife kept her own last name, write both names out fully but put the husband’s name first, regardless of alphabetical order: Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Mary Banks
- If the wife has a professional title and the husband does not, write both names fully, and include the wife’s title: Mr. Aaron Rice and Dr. Melissa Rice
- Avoid worrying about the proper way to pluralize family names, and simply address envelopes to the family as The Richards Family, unless the parents have different last names. Then write Mr. John Smith, Mrs. Sheila Stewart and family
- Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly is! But this is the last rule, so take a moment to congratulate yourself for reading this far … Now. Finally. If you’re friendly with the recipient(s), to the point where you see them outside work, or ‘catch up’ on personal news when you see one another, AND it’s not a formal invitation you’re sending, save yourself a little headache and simply use your friends’ names in whatever order you wish: Joe and Mary Smith or Heather and Robin McShayne.