Can US addresses fit into 35 characters?

At Melissa, we have seen this request where users of address verification software have predefined length and field-type restrictions. Most commonly, we have seen people using versions of SAP that restrict an address into the following fields with the maximum length in parenthesis. Address1 (35), Address2 (35), City (35), State (10), Zip (10). We will look at the feasibility of fitting an entire country’s possible addresses into this constrained format.

First, let’s make clear that I am no fan of these limitations. It was very short-sighted of the designers and you should only work in this format if you absolutely have to. Especially if you think you may venture outside of the US into other countries – these limitations will absolutely get you into trouble in many, if not most, countries. However, for this exercise, we are only looking at the US.

Address1 (35 characters maximum) – This is a problem right from the start. In the US, although in the small minority percentage wise, there are definitely addresses that go beyond 35 characters. As of the start of 2019, the maximum length known to Melissa is 43 characters. That address is actually a USPS location:

4101 INTERSTATE HIGHWAY 69 ACCESS RD STE L6
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX 78410-4545

There are thousands of addresses that are greater than 35 characters.

Address2 (35 characters maximum) – This is technically not an issue because officially, the USPS only uses one address line. Address2 items are supposed to be used for additional information, like Care of information.

City (35 characters maximum) – The longest official city name is “Tripler Army Medical Center” in Hawaii. That is 27 characters long so the city character limit is not a problem.

State (10 characters maximum) – State is not a problem since the 2 character abbreviation is the USPS preferred format.

Zip (10 character maximum) – This is also not a problem since zip codes are 5 characters. Additionally, you can still store the full zip and plus4 here since that is 9 characters, 10 if you include the dash between them. Example: “92688-2112”

Given the Address1 is the only real issue in trying to fit a US address into this format, Melissa has already looked into this particular problem. Unfortunately, an officially verified and standardized USPS address already has all the official USPS abbreviations applied (NW instead of NorthWest, Blvd instead of Boulevard). In order to make sure address fit within 35 characters, we have to look for and apply non-standard abbreviations. Additionally, we have to make sure that these unofficial abbreviations don’t turn a good address bad.

We hope that you are able to avoid a character length restriction like this. However, if that is not the case, Melissa is working on a BETA feature to address this problem. Contact a Melissa team member at 800-MELISSA for more information.