Address Standardization | What it is and how to do it.
(Want to standardize a USPS or international postal address now? Use this free address standardization web tool.)
Address standardization is the process of formatting an address so that it matches the approved format of the national postal authority. The USPS determines the official format for addresses in the United States.
Table of Contents
- What is address standardization?
- How do you standardize address data?
- What is CASS address standardization?
- What is my USPS standardized address?
- Standardization for project managers and database administrators
What is address standardization?
The USPS defines a standardized address as "one that is fully spelled out, abbreviated by using the Postal Service standard address abbreviations... or as shown in the current Postal Service ZIP+4 suffix file."1
The process of standardizing an address (whether USPS or an international address), is most often performed through an address standardization service using address validation software.
It’s important to note that address standardization does NOT guarantee address validity. Address standardization simply converts an address into the correct format and is the first step in validating an address.
Once standardized, an address will be complete, including the addition of any missing city, state, or Postal Code information. All the individual address components will be formatted with USPS-approved spelling and abbreviations in the approved USPS address format or the applicable international address format.
After an address is standardized, it can then be validated. To be validated, the standardized address is compared against the official database of known addresses to see if it matches an address in that database. If a match is found, the address is determined to be "valid". This process is known as address validation.
Examples of standardized addresses
Remember, we first standardize an address and then verify it. We have demonstrated this in the following table.
Street address as typed by an individual
post office box 121
PO Box 121
Abbeville AL 36310-0121
Wantagh New York state 11793
2993 Johnson Pl
Wantagh NY 11793-2836
2701 phillips Ave., charlotte, N.C.
2701 Phillips Ave
Charlotte NC 28208-7029
rio rancho NM, 87124
616 Ivory Rd SE
Rio Rancho NM 87124-3042
What about casing & capitalization?
We're all used to seeing addresses like this:
772 W ROLLING RD
SPRINGFIELD PA 19054-1132
Uppercase text, however, is not a USPS address format requirement.2 The text simply needs to be clearly printed and meet USPS OCR address standards. Addresses do not need to be all capitalized. So the uppercase address format is equally as valid as the following address format:
772 W Rolling Rd
Springfield PA 19054-1132
SmartyStreets returns address results in Proper Case rather than UPPERCASE. If you prefer uppercase formatting, you can transform text to ALL UPPERCASE using any spreadsheet program, database application, or programming language.
How do you standardize address data?
Address standardization is an easy process for most addresses.
Generally, there are two ways to approach address standardization. You can either use software, or you can standardize addresses manually.
Option 1: Address Standardization Software
Whether you have to standardize one address or millions, using address standardization software will make your job easier.
The software will automatically correct for malformed addresses. This process, done manually, could take you several days to complete, depending on the amount of address you need standardized. Many address data verification software tools are free to try. Take ours for a test drive and see how address standardization works.
Option 2: Do it yourself (DIY)
Another option for standardizing addresses is to attempt to do it manually yourself. Here are basic steps required on the majority of US addresses. For the sake of maintaining your sanity and ours; we won’t cover all the special cases that standardization software will handle automatically.
- Get the address you want to standardize.
- Fix any misspellings.
- Check street name, city and state. Verify that all address information is correct.
- There is only one correct version of each abbreviation according to the postal service. Check out this library to find the list of USPS approved abbreviations along with their variants.
For example, if the pre-standardized address looked like this:
210 jefferson center
Elmer, New Jersey, 08318
The word “Center”, is commonly abbreviated in the following ways, but which is correct.
If you answered, “CTR,” then congratulations! You were correct on one of the hundreds of abbreviation variations out there!
You can use the linked library to get your corrected USPS address format abbreviations.
- Correct casing and capitalization.
- Like we explained in the “What about casing & capitalization?” section, the United States Postal Service will accept either UPPERCASE format or Proper Case.
- The ZIP+4 code is optional. However, by including it, mail can arrive up to 2 days faster. Zip+4 codes apply to only 10-20 homes or locations. Appending the ZIP+4 means the Post Office can more easily pinpoint where your mail needs to go. With 160 million delivery points in the US, there are between 8 million and 16 million ZIP+4 codes out there, and they can change up to once a month.
Trying to figure it out ZIP+4 for each address on your own can feel like trying to hit a moving target 160 million times in a row, so you can leave it off if you like. A better option would be to use our ZIP+4 web tool to find yours in a few seconds. It will also do the standardizing and verifying of your address as a bonus.
- The address should now have the correct USPS address format. Doesn’t that feel good? It will look something like this:
210 Jefferson Rd Fl 2
Elmer NJ 08318-2680
What is CASS address standardization?
CASS Address standardization is the Coding Accuracy Support System. Developed by the United States Postal Service, it is a certification program for standardization and address verification. A CASS-certified software will standardize your mailing lists, update outdated addresses and will verify that the addresses are complete and valid.
So, how does address standardization differ from CASS address standardization?
Address standardization is the process of formatting an address to conform to USPS guidelines.
CASS address standardization is a certification that a particular service has been certified by USPS that it can standardize addresses according to USPS guidelines.
Smartystreets is a CASS-certified software provider, which is why we can standardize your addresses to the USPS format for you. You can test it here.
What is my USPS standardized address?
I bet you just skipped down to this section. If so, I can’t blame you. It is the most important question, and I am glad you asked! Coincidentally enough, we actually have an address standardization software you can use to find your own USPS standardize address!
In the address standardization rules section of this article, we mentioned that standardization puts your address in a standard form that is recognized by the United States Postal Service. What address standardization doesn’t do is it doesn’t check to ensure that the address is actually valid. However, our software both standardizes and validates addresses. Just give a quick clickity click here, pop in your address, and you will have your standardized and validated address in a few seconds.
Our software can standardize and validate addresses from multiple databases making many additional scrubbing processes obsolete. Whether you are standardizing for a sql database or need a Python, Java SDK, or other API solutions; we can help you.
Standardization for Project Managers and Database Administrators
So, you are a Project Manager or a Database Administrator (DBA) that works for Blue Widgets Incorporated. You have been tasked with merging three databases of customer data. Each database originates from different sales channels. You have a SQL database of customers for eBay, a CSV file for Amazon customer data, and a list of customers’ corporate websites from a CMS.
Now, your company wants to send catalogs to their top 50,000 customers.
You could be facing a number of problems in trying to accomplish this. The first issue is that each of these platforms holds address data in different formats. One of these databases might standardize every address, while the others might not. One might break address components down into 7 different fields, while the other databases might put the full address into a single field. Another issue is that your customers might exist simultaneously in more than one database because they have purchased from you on multiple platforms.
So, how can you ensure you aren’t sending multiple catalogs to a single address? What about wasting money by sending mail to invalid addresses? You can eliminate this waste by doing some data cleansing (scrubbing) in your databases. For mailing addresses, this consists of three steps.
- Standardization - By parsing your different addresses and putting them in the one consistent format as defined by the USPS, you make sure each address is in the format with the correct syntax that will be most understandable for the next steps.
- Validation - Address validation involves doing an address lookup for addresses in the USPS database. This database is updated monthly. This step ensures the address is actually a current, valid, mailable address.
- De-duplication - Once the addresses are standardized and validated, it is now easy to eliminate duplicates. Now, the address only appears in your merged database one time. If you did de-duplication before standardizing and validating, many duplicate addresses would be missed.
You have completed the cleanse. Standardizing, validating, and removing duplicates are important steps in data management hygiene.
If an address is worth keeping it will be standardized and validated. Integrating regular scrubbing to your databases of addresses makes them reliable. With reliable addresses, you can better track the lifetime value of your customers and more clearly see their purchase patterns. Not to mention the money you can save by reducing postage on undeliverable mail now that you have reliable customer address data.
Address standardization makes addresses as easy to understand as possible for the USPS, and computer databases. It does this by putting all addresses in a simple standard format. Standardization factors in spelling, casing, abbreviations, postal codes, and many more special cases. And, after finishing this article, you now have all the tools you need to standardize and validate your addresses.
To easily standardize one address or many, try SmartyStreets Address Validation online services for free. We have a single address standardization tool. We also have a bulk address standardization tool. Best of all, we have a collection of APIs so that you can standardize addresses in your own programs or forms.