How to Send Mail in the United States

Most countries have a postal service (a way to send mail). It’s a basic service, so you might think that it’s the same in every country. Have you noticed differences between the way we send mail in the United States and the way people send mail in your country? Today, we’re going to talk about how to send mail in the United States.

First, let’s talk about mailboxes.

There are a few different kinds of mailboxes. If you have a mailbox at your house, it might look like one of these:

Used with permission from capl@washjeff.edu

By http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Steevven1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mailbox_USA.JPG) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in an apartment or townhouse, you might have a group of mailboxes for your neighborhood or your building. Those look similar to these:

By Dmitry G (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) also has mailboxes in public places all around the city. They are large, blue boxes like this one:

Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

You can only RECEIVE mail in your home or apartment mailbox (not the blue Postal Service boxes). You can SEND mail from all of these mailboxes, but the way you do it is different for each one.

How to Send Mail

Here is how you send mail from each kind of mailbox:

  • Home Mailbox – To send mail from your home mailbox, put the mail inside the mailbox, and raise the red flag on the side. When the flag is up, the mail carrier will take out the mail that is inside.
  • Neighborhood Mailbox – Most neighborhood mailboxes have a special box that says “Outgoing Mail.” You can put mail into this box, and the mail carrier will take it.
  • Postal Service Mailbox – Just put mail into the box. There is a sign on the box that tells you what time the mail carrier will pick it up.

You can also take your mail to a post office. Near the entrance, there is an “outgoing mail” box. You can put your mail there if it is ready. In order to send mail in the United States, you must pay. We pay to send mail by buying stamps. You buy a stamp and put it on your mail. It is very important that you put a stamp on your mail. If you don’t use a stamp, the mail carrier will not deliver your mail. You can buy stamps at the post office. You may also be able to buy stamps at Wal-Mart, a gas station, a bank, a pharmacy, an office supply store, or a grocery store. You can buy stamps online at Amazon.com or USPS.com. Look for the word “forever” on the stamps. You can use those even if the price of stamps goes up in the future.

How to Address an Envelope

In different countries, people address envelopes differently. It’s important to do it correctly so that your mail goes to the right place. Here is an envelope that is ready to mail:

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In the United States, we write the “to” address in the middle of the envelope. This letter is going to Bob Vance. Bob is the recipient of the letter (the person who will receive it). On the first line, we write the person’s name. On the second line, we write the number of the building (house/apartment/townhouse/office) and the name of the street. If we need to add an apartment number, we can put it in the same line or a different one. Below that, we write the city, state, and zip code. You can also write the zip code on a different line if the city and state are very long and you don’t have space.

In the top-left corner, we write the return address – the “from” address. This letter is from Phyllis Lapin. Phyllis wrote the letter. She is sending it to Bob. If there is a problem with the letter, the mail carrier can return it to Phyllis at this address. We write it the same as the “to” address:
Name
Street Address (number of building + name of street)
City/State/Zip Code (*Notice that we put a comma between the city and the state.)

The stamp always goes in the top-right corner.

Your Turn

Find a partner in your class. Write your partner a letter and send it to him/her. When you receive a letter from your partner, bring it to class. Is the U.S. Postal Service fast or slow?

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. Can you send letters from your home mailbox in your country?
  2. Can you receive mail at home in your country, or do you have to pick it up from another place?
  3. Is sending a letter in the United States cheap or expensive?
  4. Have you ever been to a U.S. post office? What was your opinion of it?
  5. Is the postal service in the U.S. the same as in your country or different? Explain your answer.
  6. In the United States, postal mail is sometimes called “snail mail.” What do you think that means? After you discuss it with your classmates, ask your teacher to explain.

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