The return address tells the USPS where the sender wants the mail returned, if it is undeliverable. If a return address is not included, the mail is sent to the dead letter section of the Post Office where it will eventually be destroyed.
A complete return address should be included on all correspondence. The following format for the return address is recommended:
OFFICIAL BUSINESS PENALTY FOR PRIVATE USE, $300
Section VI of this mail guide contains a sample of a properly addressed envelope, a listing of USPS directional and secondary address indicators, a list of state abbreviations and a list of the most commonly used street abbreviations.
It is best to capitalize the address and eliminate all punctuation as this will speed machine processing by the USPS. The USPS list of common address and state abbreviations on pages 29-30 of this guide should be used. Always place the address or post office box on the line above the city and state and always place the ZIP+4 Code on the last line.
The following city, state, and ZIP Codes should be used when receiving mail through the NIH main mail center:
Domestic Mail: Bethesda MD 20892-MSCInternational Mail: Bethesda MD USA 20892-MSCBusiness Reply Mail: Bethesda MD 20814-9692
Note: The ZIP Code “20894-MSC" should only be used by National Library of Medicine Buildings 38 and 38A(See NIH Street Addresses at Http://dmcs.ors.od.nih.gov/asp/mscaddresssearch.asp)
A complete delivery address is necessary on all NIH official mail dispatched via the USPS. The address must have all of the elements to allow an exact match with the USPS ZIP+4 file (addressee name, firm, or other identifier; street number and name; secondary address (APT, STE, etc.); city and state; and a correct five-digit ZIP Code with ZIP+4 Code (if known).
The following format is recommended for addressing outgoing official mail:
To forward First-Class Mail to persons no longer assigned to NIH activities or employed by NIH, a forwarding address should be used to avoid mail from being returned to sender. Using a black or blue pen, draw a single diagonal line through the address and write the following statement and address directly above the address line and place the piece back into the mail stream:
FORWARD TO: Write the forwarding address
First-Class Mail addressed to persons no longer assigned to NIH activities or employed by NIH and no forwarding address is available should be returned to the sender. Use a black or blue pen, draw a single diagonal line through the address and write the following statement directly above the address line and place the mail back into the mail stream:
RETURN TO SENDER: No longer at NIH/address unknown