Royal Mail return address guidance

When you opt to run a direct mail campaign, the first contact you will have with your targeted audience is when the envelope drops through the letterbox onto the doormat. With this in mind, it is crucial for the envelope to set the standard for its content. The layout of your envelope will have a dominant role in the speed of delivery.

The location of certain parts of an addressed envelope are common knowledge, like the location of the recipient's address, but a lot of people either become confused or are unsure of where to locate the return address and what to include, should there be the need for one.

Royal Mail has produced an in-depth document titled 'A guide for letter envelope design and clear addressing'. Within this guide, Royal Mail recommends that a valid UK return address is applied to all mail that is sent out. However, it's not just a simple case of adding 'Sender' and your business address number and postcode. We've taken the key information from this document and put it into the below guide to help you ensure future mailing items' return addresses are printed correctly, so if they fail to reach the addressee, they should have a greater chance of being returned.

When a return address is applied to the mail piece, it must comply with the following requirements:

1. The content of the return address must follow the Delivery Address structure as per the following example:

Return Address:
Ciconi Ltd
Airfield Industrial Estate
PE28 2SH

2. The first line must identify the address as a return address and must state the words 'Return Address'. It is also acceptable to use 'If undelivered please return to:' if you prefer.

3. The most cost effective location for a return address is the top left corner of the envelope's face. The basic guidelines for the printed return address are:

  • Less than 75mm from the right edge

  • Extend no lower than 28mm from the top edge of the letter

  • No closer than 12mm to the Delivery Address

It is also acceptable for it to be placed centrally on the reverse of the mail piece. This should be within a zone extending no more than 40mm from the top of the mail piece, which would generally be on the envelope's closure flap.

4. The preferred colour for printing the return address is black. If this cannot be achieved then adequate contrast must be achieved. Negative contrast is not allowed. The characters must not be blurred, smudged, deformed or incomplete. No splashing or ink splatter around characters.

Read the full Royal Mail guide here