Proper Way to Address Graduation Invitations

Sending out graduation invitations lets your family and friends share your accomplishment, even if you haven't seen them in years. This major milestone requires a bit of old-fashioned etiquette as you address the invitation envelopes. Formal graduation invitations typically have two envelopes: a larger outer envelope designed to hold the address and a smaller inner envelope to cover the invitation itself.

1 Write, Don't Type

Although it seems to take forever, proper etiquette dictates you hand write all the addresses on your graduation invitations. Use blue or black ink; crazy colors don't match the formal nature. The invitations should go out four to six weeks before the ceremony, but you don't have to mail them all the same day. Give yourself several days to complete the addressing so the handwriting stays neat and legible. For your return address, you can hand write it on the back envelope flap or use a printed label.

2 Outer Envelope Titles

The outside envelope is the most formal area. Use proper titles, such as "Mr." or "Dr. and Mrs." For married couples with different last names, list the woman's name first, followed by "and" and the husband's name. If the recipient is a woman and you don't know whether she is married, use "Ms." as a default title. It's customary to treat widowed women as if they were still married, so a title such as "Mrs. John Doe" is proper etiquette. If she's divorced, the title "Mrs." still applies, although you should use her first and last name, such as "Mrs. Jane Doe."

List same-sex couples alphabetically if the have different last names or use the title "Messrs." for men and "Mmes." for women if they have the same last name. For example, the name line might read, "Messrs. Jake and John Doe."

3 Outer Envelope Names and Addresses

If the recipient goes by a nickname, use his full first name on the outer envelope, unless he goes by his middle name. In that case, list his first name and middle initial in addition to the last name.

Don't abbreviate street names in the address. Spell out state names too. The only acceptable abbreviations are titles in the name line.

4 Names on Inner Envelope

You can relax a little on the inner envelope. These still must be handwritten in blue or black ink, but you can switch from formal titles to the names you typically call the recipients, such as "Uncle Joe and Aunt Jane." If the recipient isn't someone you know well enough to list first names, stick with titles and last names, such as "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.