A Simple Guide to USPS Address Validation

The United States Postal Service (USPS) uses standard addresses to identify all physical locations which can accept mail deliveries. Because of new construction or relocation, the USPS updates its database monthly, and provides recommendations for verifying mailing addresses. For businesses with heavy outgoing mail, it is important to verify that the mailing addresses they use are valid per the USPS Zip+4 address database.

The process used to validate a legitimate address follows two steps:

  • Standardization
  • Delivery Point Verification

What is Standardization?

Standardization is the process by which an address is put into a standard format which will more easily match the addresses in the USPS database. Components of standardization include the following:

Converting common terms to abbreviations – Most people are aware of the standard two letter abbreviations used to identify the various states within the United States. But many people don’t realize that the USPS also uses standard abbreviations to identify street suffixes and secondary units. The standard abbreviations can be found at the USPS website (USPS Official Abbreviations) and updating a mailing address with approved abbreviations is the first step in standardizing an address. For example, the USPS accepted abbreviation for AVENUE is AVE.

Correcting spelling errors – Just as with editing most documents, it is important to correct spelling errors within an address. Many street and city names use common terms, and if spelled incorrectly, they may not match a valid USPS address and end up as undeliverable. A good service or application will spell check an address looking for and correcting common terms.

Verifying and converting to uniform city names – Just as the USPS uses common abbreviations, they also maintain a list of uniform city names. Confusion can occur over time where city names may be referred to differently in advertising or city signage, so that many people don’t know the uniform city name used by the postal service. A non-uniform city name may make the mail undeliverable. An example of this issue is with New York – an address to New York City, Manhattan, the Big Apple, or NYC would need to be corrected to read simply New York as the city name to ensure deliverability.

Ensuring the address is complete – Perhaps the most important aspect of address standardization is to make sure the address has all components that the USPS, or any other delivery service, is expecting. By including all parts of the address, you ensure that each component is identified for what it is, i.e. street, city, or state. The addition of the zip code is the final check for the USPS to know they have identified the correct physical location.

The minimum parts on all mailing addresses for mail within the United States are street number, street name, city, state, and zip code. Zip Code lookup is one of the most used features of the USPS website and enables you to enter the street address, city, and state, and retrieve the zip code, with the four digit extension. This feature will also format the address following the standardization rules above.

What is Delivery Point Validation?

If an address is standardized correctly, it can be easily validated as a deliverable physical location. When an address is entered on the USPS zip code locator, it is put in standard format, verified that it is a valid location per the database, and given a ZIP+4 number which ensures the correct location will be reached.

By using a USPS Address Validation application or service, businesses can ensure their mail reaches its intended destination.

About the Author

This article was contributed by blogger Nicole. Nicole writes about print and Internet marketing secrets.


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