There are going to be times when you need to understand the U.S. mail. Sure, there are lots of other choices for sending messages, but the mail is still the only way to get a unique piece of paper in front of a person.

My grandfather was a mailman and his brother and his father were mailmen too, and that was so long ago that it was acceptable to call any man who worked with mail a “mailman.” Your great-great grandfather, the senior mailman, was born a year before the first telephone line was strung. He grew up in a setting where mail was as much a lifeline to folks then as your cell phone is to you now.

michaelhilton on flickr
michaelhilton on flickr

Imagine what it was like to have no means of communicating with the outside world other than shouting out a window or writing a letter and waiting for a reply. You may think of it as the… slowest… texting… ever.

Even express mail is slower than signalling.

If it was all you had, you would do it. And if you were an industrious sort, you would work hard at finding other, faster ways to get your messages delivered.

Are you still there? How can I know? Hellooooo?

Now that you might have have a tiny sense of the significance of licking a stamp and sticking it on an envelope, we can continue with the how of mailing a letter.

You will need money and a thing to mail first. How much money will depend on the thing you want to mail. A small letter is still under a dollar to mail even if you buy the envelope from the post office. You could, of course, just ask me for an envelope, but I want you to pretend I don’t have any so that you’ll learn.

  • If the letter is heavy enough – barely fitting into a letter envelope or containing rocks – it will require extra postage.
  • If the letter needs to travel out of state in about a day or it needs to leave the U.S., it will require extra postage.
  • If the letter is extra large so that it is more like a box, it will require extra postage.
  • If the letter contains live animals, you may have more serious matters to address and it will require extra postage.

You can take your information and money to the post office and ask for help. Just be nice and try not to go at lunch time.

For a plain, vanilla letter or a birthday card, all you need is one first-class stamp and the address of the person to whom you are mailing it.


Look at the stupid face on this envelope.

Where does the stamp belong?

The address?

What’s the third thing?

Think about it.

You’ve seen envelopes before.

Got it?

Just in case you didn’t figure it out, see the example below.envelope done

When you’re ready, just put it in a mailbox and consider it launched.

Also: some internet clowns suggest sending mail without stamps might work.

Please don’t do that.

It would disgrace your ancestors at the very least.

They loved the mail and some of them loved Ingrid Bergman, I’m sure.

Always use a stamp.


4 Replies to “How can I mail a letter?”

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