John (my cousin) & Jane (cousin-in-law)

When sending a letter and writing their names on the envelope, which is correct?

  1. Cousin John & Cousin Jane
  2. Cousin John & Jane

I would think #2 is correct because I don’t have to repeat the word “cousin” because they are both my cousins, but I don’t want Jane to feel like I don’t consider her a cousin because I didn’t write “Cousin Jane” so in that case should I just write Cousin John & Cousin Jane?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jan 30 at 0:31

4 Answers 4


And it should be noted that "Cousin John" is only "cousin" to relatives, not the mailman or the people next door. It serves no purpose in more accurately addressing the letter.


Ultimately, the name on an envelope is intended for use by the postal service. For this reason, you should always write out the full names (and only the full names) of the addressees, so that misdelivered or incorrectly addressed mail has a higher chance of reaching the intended recipients.

For this reason, you should include the last names of John and Jane, and you should omit the word "Cousin" entirely.

  • To back this up, the USPS has guidance on how to address. It doesn't say anything about including titles or forms of address, but the examples they give are just plain "Jane Smith" etc.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 29 at 22:08
  • This is true vis-a-vis the envelope, but perhaps the next question will be how or whether to use the word cousin in the letter or card that is to be mailed. (I would just leave the word out entirely. Most people I know just refer to their cousins by their first names.)
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 30 at 2:40
  • @nnnnnn When speaking within our family we would usually refer to a cousin named Z as Cousin Z. Same as for Aunt, Uncle, etc. But if you are a non-family member or someone not closely related somehow, then we would probably omit the kinship term, since he's not a cousin to you.
    – Brandin
    Jan 30 at 13:58

I'm not sure I agree with the comments on what the mailman reads. I think that the address needs to conform to standard format, but the final delivery, from mailbox to the hand of the recipient takes place within the home, and so a casual naming seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I'd go with "Cousins John and Jane") though I might include their last names too.


When sending a letter and writing their names on the envelope, which is correct?

Cousin John & Cousin Jane or Cousin John & Jane,

Neither. In the UK, both are wrong.

On the envelope you write "Mr & Mrs J [insert surname]" (The "J" is the husband's initial.)

Nobody is interested in how you are related.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.