How to Send a Letter

Learn how to send letters with USPS and how you can track your letters with Certified Mail service
how to send a letter
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Who said snail mail is dead? Even now, in the age of smartphones and digitalization, the US Postal Service still processes and delivers over 425 million pieces of mail per day. If you need to send a letter, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind to mail it the proper way. This guide goes into all the nitty gritty details!

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Mailing and Shipping: Know the Difference

Before we get into anything, let’s talk about the difference between mailing and shipping. USPS offers both services, but they couldn’t be further from each other. Mailing has to do with sending letters and postcards around 1 ounce, while shipping refers to sending goods inside of a parcel or bubble mailer. You can send a letter using a stamp, but you can only ship parcels by buying the proper amount of postage on a shipping label. Shipping labels also come with full tracking numbers, which First-Class mail service doesn’t provide.

Use One Forever Stamp to Send a 1-Ounce Letter with USPS

Depending on how heavy your letter is, you may need to use more than one stamp. As a rule of thumb, one First-Class Forever stamp covers the postage amount for a 1-ounce letter; in other words, 1 ounce (oz) is how heavy a letter can be for a single First-Class stamp. If your letter weighs more than one ounce, you’ll need to pay for “Additional Ounce” stamps on top of your Forever stamp…and your letter can weigh up to three ounces before USPS requires you to ship your envelope instead of mailing it.

Properly Formatting Addresses

In case you need a reminder, you’ll need to include two addresses on your letter: your return address in the top left corner of the envelope, and your recipient’s address in the center of the envelope. Both addresses should follow this formatting example below, which includes the name, street address, city, state, and ZIP code:

  • John Doe
  • 101 Main Street
  • Everytown, USA
  • 12345

How Can I Track My Letter Once I Send It?

Unfortunately, regular First-Class Mail doesn’t come with a tracking number…but if you need to track your letter, there’s a way you can! USPS offers a service called Certified Mail for this exact purpose, and you can purchase it at any Post Office.

This service (that you need to pay for on top of your regular postage cost) allows you to track your certified letters the same way you do your packages, by typing a unique tracking number into the tracking portal on the USPS website.

Where to Drop off Your Letters

When it’s time to send your letter, you can either take it to the Post Office directly, drop it off in a blue collection box, or leave it in your mailbox (or in the “Outgoing Mail” slot in your community’s cluster of mailboxes). As long as you place the proper amount of postage on it (as we wrote earlier, one Forever stamp covers a 1-ounce letter), you’ll be good to go!

Mailing a Letter Internationally Requires an International First-Class Postage Stamp

If you need to send a letter overseas, one regular Forever stamp for First-Class Mail won’t cut it. USPS requires a higher amount of postage for international letters, since there is a higher cost associated with delivering those letters.

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One Comment

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  1. Mary Sue Husman

    Unfortunately the website says that my mail got delivered yesterday to my address but I haven’t received any mail. I love in Waterloo IA off of W 5th St. I’m very concerned that this mail may be in the wrong hands. How did I complain about thus when its Sunday and still no mail. I think you need to maybe do more training or hiring of responsible people. 641-691-8474 is my number. There was a letter from someone who just passed away. I really need that mail. Thanks.


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