How to Write a Shipping Label – A Step-By-Step Guide

how to write a shipping label

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A shipping label is an essential tool in the logistics supply chain, acting as a guidepost that ensures packages navigate the complex journey from sender to recipient. The importance of a correctly written shipping label cannot be overstated; it is the key in the delivery process, where even a minor error can lead to delays, misdeliveries, or lost items. A well-prepared label guarantees efficiency, helping carriers to sort, route, and deliver parcels accurately and swiftly.

This article is designed to be a practical guide on how to write a shipping label. We will cover everything from the basic components of a shipping label to specific instructions for different types of shipments. Whether you are sending a personal item, managing a small business, or handling logistics at a larger scale, understanding how to correctly write a shipping label is a skill that ensures your packages reach their destinations reliably.

Before we delve into the specifics of writing a shipping label, having a solid knowledge of shipping labels is highly beneficial. We suggest reading our in-depth article on What is a Shipping Label? for a complete understanding. With this foundation, we can now explore how to write a shipping label effectively.

Understanding the Components of a Shipping Label

Ten components of a shipping label

A shipping label may seem straightforward at first glance, but it comprises several critical elements, each serving a specific purpose in ensuring the package’s successful delivery. Understanding these components is key to writing an effective shipping label.

Here are the main components typically found on a shipping label:

  • Sender’s Information: This includes the full name and address of the person or company sending the package. It’s vital to ensure this information is accurate and complete, as it’s used in case the package needs to be returned or cannot be delivered to the intended recipient.
  • Recipient’s Information: Arguably the most critical part of the label, this section contains the full name and address of the person or company receiving the shipment. Double-check for accuracy to avoid delivery delays or misplacements.
  • Tracking Number: A unique identifier assigned to each package, the tracking number allows both the sender and recipient to monitor the package’s journey. The shipping company also uses this number for sorting and handling the package throughout its transit.
  • Barcode: Often linked to the tracking number, the barcode is scanned at various points during the shipping process. This digital encoding facilitates automated sorting and tracking. It also helps update the package’s status and location, enhancing the efficiency of the delivery process.
  • Shipping Date: It is the date when the package was shipped. This information helps in tracking the package and estimating delivery times.
  • Expected Delivery Date: While not always included, this provides an estimate of when the recipient can expect to receive the package. It’s especially useful for time-sensitive shipments.
  • Additional Information: Depending on the nature of the shipment and the carrier, additional information such as package weight, shipping class (e.g., overnight, standard), return instructions and handling instructions (e.g., “Fragile,” “Keep Upright”) may also be included.

It’s important to note that while these are the most common components, the specific elements of a shipping label can vary depending on the carrier and the type of shipment. Always check with your specific carrier for any additional requirements or variations in label format. If you need help creating a shipping label, our How to Make Shipping Labels guide will be helpful. 

Each of these components plays a vital role in the shipping process. The sender’s and recipient’s information ensures the package travels from and to the correct locations. At the same time, the tracking number and barcode allow for monitoring and efficient shipment handling. The shipping and delivery dates provide timelines, and any additional information ensures the package is treated appropriately during transit.

By understanding these components, you can ensure that your shipping label is complete and accurate, significantly reducing the risk of shipping errors and delays.

Can You Handwrite a Shipping Label?

When it comes to preparing a shipping label, one common question is whether it’s acceptable to handwrite them. The short answer is yes, you can handwrite a shipping label. 

However, several factors must be considered to ensure that a handwritten label is as effective and reliable as a printed one.

When Handwriting a Shipping Label Makes Sense?

  • Small Volume Shipments: Handwriting can be a practical option for individuals or small businesses sending out a limited number of packages. It eliminates the need for a printer and can be more cost-effective.
  • Personal Shipments: A handwritten label adds a personal touch and is usually sufficient for sending personal items to friends or family, provided the handwriting is clear and legible.
  • Urgency or Convenience: In situations where you might not have access to a printer, handwriting the label is a convenient solution. This is often the case for last-minute shipments or when you’re away from your usual workspace.

When to Avoid Handwriting Shipping Labels?

  • High Volume Shipments: For businesses with a large volume of shipments, handwriting labels can be time-consuming and impractical. It increases the likelihood of errors and can slow down the shipping process.
  • Legibility Concerns: If your handwriting is not clear and can not be easily readable, opting for printed labels is better. Poor legibility can lead to misdeliveries or delays.
  • Professional Appearance: Printed labels generally offer a more professional look, which is important for businesses. They convey a sense of professionalism and reliability to customers.

Check out our dedicated article on How to Print Shipping Labels to learn about printing shipping labels. 

Best Practices for Handwritten Labels

If you decide to handwrite your shipping labels, here are some best practices to follow.

  • Use a Permanent Black Marker: This ensures that the writing is bold and resistant to smudging or fading.
  • Write Legibly and Boldly: Make sure your handwriting is clear and large enough to be easily read from a distance.
  • Include All Necessary Information: As with printed labels, ensure you include all the essential components like sender and recipient information and, if possible, a tracking number.
  • Place the Label Securely: Use clear packing tape to cover the entire label, protecting it from moisture and handling.

To sum it up, while handwriting a shipping label is certainly possible, it’s important to consider the nature of your shipment, the volume, and the need for professionalism. 

Printed labels are often more efficient and reliable, especially for businesses. However, a neatly handwritten label can be perfectly adequate for personal or low-volume shipments.

Step-by-Step Guide to How to Write a Shipping Label

Seven steps on how to write a shipping label

Writing a shipping label might seem straightforward, but it’s important to approach this task methodically to ensure accuracy and efficiency in your shipments. Whether handwriting or printing, following these steps will help you create a clear and comprehensive shipping label.

Step 1: Gather Accurate Information

  • Sender’s Details: Confirm the sender’s full name, address, and contact information. This should be the same as registered with your shipping account if you have one.
  • Recipient’s Details: Double-check the recipient’s full name, address, and contact information. Verify the address for accuracy to avoid any shipping errors.

Step 2: Choose a Format

  • Handwritten vs. Printed: Decide whether you will handwrite or print the label based on the considerations discussed in the previous section.
  • Check Label Format – It’s also important to check with your specific carrier for any additional label requirements or preferences they might have. This is especially crucial for international shipments or when using specialised shipping services, as different carriers may have unique guidelines or additional information that needs to be included on the label.

Step 3: Fill in the Sender and Recipient Information

  • Clear and Legible Writing: Whether handwritten or printed, ensure the information is clear. Use block letters for handwriting and a simple, readable Sans Serif font for printed labels.
  • Positioning on the Label: Place the sender’s information in the top left corner and the recipient’s information in the centre or bottom half of the label.

Step 4: Include the Tracking Number and Barcode

  • Tracking Number: If available, include the tracking number. This is especially important for business shipments and valuable items.
  • Barcode: For printed labels, include a barcode if your shipping service provides one. This aids in automated tracking and sorting.

Step 5: Add Additional Information (If Required)

  • Shipping Date: Note the date of shipment, which can be important for tracking purposes.
  • Expected Delivery Date: If known, include an estimated delivery date.
  • Special Instructions: Add any special handling instructions like “Fragile,” “Perishable,” or “Do Not Bend.”

Step 6: Secure the Label

  • Attachment: If you’re using a sticker label, ensure it’s firmly attached. For paper labels, use clear packing tape (transparent) to cover the entire label, protecting it from moisture and wear during transit.
  • Visibility: Place the label on the package’s largest surface and ensure it’s fully visible and not folded over edges or corners.

Step 7: Double-Check Everything

  • Review for Accuracy: Before sealing and sending off your package, review the label for any errors or omissions. Ensure all information is current and correct.

By following these steps, you can write a shipping label that is clear, accurate, and efficient, reducing the risk of delays or issues in transit. Remember, the shipping label is your package’s most important identifier, so taking the time to do it right is crucial for successful delivery.

How to Write a Shipping Label on a Box

Six steps on how to write a shipping label on a box

This section explains how to write shipping labels on a box.  

Essential Elements on a Box Shipping Label

  • Recipient’s Full Name and Address: This should include the street address, city, state, and ZIP code.
  • Sender’s Return Address: Your full name and address should be included if the package needs to be returned.
  • Tracking Number (if available): For tracking the package’s journey and ensuring its security.
  • Special Handling Instructions: Such as “Fragile” or “This Side Up” if necessary.

Writing a Box Shipping Label

Step 1: Choose the Right Spot

  • Select the Largest Side: Choose the largest, flattest surface of the box. The area should be large enough to accommodate both the sender’s and recipient’s addresses without overlapping seams or edges. 
  • Clean and Dry: Ensure the surface is clean, dry, and free of any old labels, dirt, or tape. 

Step 2: Write the Recipient's Address

  • Center Bottom Placement: Write the destination address toward the centre bottom of the box’s face. Use a dark-coloured permanent marker, preferably black, for visibility. 
  • Address Format: Write the recipient’s full name, full street address including apartment or suite number (if applicable), city, state, and ZIP+4 Code. Use capital letters for consistency and readability. Avoid using commas or periods. For example, 
  • 123 MAIN ST APT 4
  • ANYTOWN NY 12345-6789 

Step 3: Add the Sender's Address

  • Top Left Corner: Write your address (the sender’s address) in the upper-left corner of the same face of the box.
  • Address Format: Follow the same format as the recipient’s address. Include your full name, address, city, state, and ZIP+4 Code in capital letters.

Step 4: Add Additional Labels if Necessary

  • Handling Instructions: For fragile items or special handling requirements, add additional labels like “Fragile” or “Handle with Care” on the other sides of the box.

Step 5: Secure the Addresses

  • Protect the Writing: If possible, cover the written addresses with clear packing tape to protect them from smudging or getting damaged during transit.

Step 6: Double-check for Visibility and Security

  • Ensure Visibility: Ensure the label is fully visible and legible from a distance and not obstructed by any part of the box.
  • Security Check: Test the tape attachment by gently tugging at the edges to ensure it’s firmly in place and won’t detach during transit.

How to Write a Shipping Label for a Package

Six steps on how to write a shipping label for a package

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you write a shipping label for a package effectively:

Essential Elements on a Package Shipping Label

  • Recipient’s Full Name and Address: Include the complete street address, city, state, and ZIP code.
  • Sender’s Return Address: Your full name and address are necessary if the package needs to be returned.
  • Tracking Number (if available): Essential for monitoring the package’s journey and security.
  • Special Handling Instructions: Note instructions like “Fragile,” “Perishable,” or “Keep Dry” if applicable.

Writing a Package Shipping Label

Step 1: Select the Right Surface

  • Smooth and Flat: Choose a smooth, flat surface on your package for the label. Avoid placing it over seams, edges, or corners where it could be easily torn or obscured.
  • Clean and Dry: Ensure the surface is clean, dry, and free from any old labels or residue.

Step 2: Write the Recipient's Address

  • Centre Placement: Position the recipient’s address toward the centre of the chosen surface. This helps in easy identification and scanning.
  • Legible Writing: Use a permanent marker and write in clear, bold letters. Ensure the address is easy to read from a distance.
  • Address Format: Write the recipient’s full name and full street address, including apartment or suite number (if applicable), city, state, and ZIP+4 Code. Use capital letters for consistency and readability.

Step 3: Add the Sender's Address

  • Top Left Corner: Place your address (the sender’s address) in the upper-left corner of the same surface. It should be smaller than the recipient’s address but still clear and legible.

Step 4: Include Special Instructions

  • Visible Placement: If the package requires special handling, write instructions like ‘Fragile’ or ‘This Side Up’ directly on the package or on an additional label and stick it

Step 5: Secure the Label

  • Protect the Writing: If possible, cover the written addresses with clear packing tape to protect them from smudging or getting damaged during transit.

Step 6: Final Security Check

  • Ensure Visibility: Confirm that the label is fully visible and not obstructed by any part of the package.
  • Security Check: Test the tape’s attachment by gently tugging at the edges to ensure it’s firmly in place and won’t detach during transit. If you’ve added special instructions, ensure they are easy to see and understand.

How to Write a Shipping Label on an Envelope

Five steps to write a shipping label on an envelope

Here’s how to properly address an envelope for mailing. 

Essential Elements for an Envelope

  • Recipient’s Mailing/Street Address: This should include the recipient’s full name, street address, city, state, and ZIP code.
  • Sender’s Return Address: Your own name and address, in case the envelope needs to be returned.
  • Postage Stamp: Ensure a valid postage stamp is affixed to the envelope.

Writing the Shipping Label on an Envelope

Step 1: Prepare the Envelope

  • Use the Front Side: Always use the front side of the envelope for addressing. This is the side without the flap.

Step 2: Write the Recipient's Address

  • Centre Placement: Write the recipient’s address in the centre of the envelope. This is the standard location for the main address.
  • Clear and Legible Writing: Use a pen with dark ink to ensure the address is easily readable. Write in a neat, legible hand.
  • Address Format: Include the recipient’s full name at the top, followed by the street address, city, state, and ZIP code on separate lines.

Step 3: Add the Sender's Return Address

  • Top Left Corner: Write your own address in the top-left corner of the envelope. This should be smaller than the recipient’s address but still clear.
  • Include Essential Details: Your return address should have your full name, street address, city, state, and ZIP code.

Step 4: Affix the Postage Stamp

  • Top Right Corner: Place the postage stamp in the top right corner of the envelope. Make sure it’s properly affixed to avoid it falling off during transit.

Step 5: Final Review

  • Check for Accuracy: Double-check both addresses for any errors.
  • Ensure Visibility: Make sure the addresses and postage stamps are fully visible and not obscured.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Shipping Labels

Seven Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Shipping Labels

Properly writing a shipping label is crucial for ensuring your package reaches its destination without any issues. However, common mistakes in handwriting labels can lead to significant delays or even lost packages. Here’s a list of these mistakes and how to avoid them:

Inaccurate or Incomplete Addresses

One of the most frequent and critical mistakes in label writing is providing an incomplete or wrong address. This includes typos in street names, city names, or ZIP codes. 

An often-overlooked detail is the inclusion of apartment or suite numbers, which are crucial for ensuring the package reaches the correct recipient. 

Therefore, always double-check these details for accuracy.

Illegible Handwriting

Legibility is paramount for handwritten labels. Illegible handwriting is a leading cause of misdelivery. 

Ensure your writing is clear and bold, preferably in block letters, to avoid confusion during the sorting and delivery process.

Incorrect Placement

The placement of your handwritten details is crucial. 

Write on the largest, flattest surface of the package, avoiding seams, edges, or corners where the writing could be damaged or obscured. Proper placement ensures the information is easily accessible and readable by postal workers.

Failing to Include Essential Information

Omitting crucial details can cause significant setbacks. This includes the shipping address and the sender’s return address. If your package has a tracking number, include it prominently. These details are vital for tracking and, if necessary, returning the package.

Using the Wrong Font Size

The size of your handwriting is crucial when addressing packages. It’s important to write in a size that is easily readable. 

Letters that are too small can be challenging for postal workers to read, increasing the risk of misdelivery. On the other hand, writing that is excessively large may not fit properly on smaller packages and can appear unprofessional. 

Aim for a balanced, medium-sized font that is clear and legible from a reasonable distance. This ensures that your package is easily processed and reaches its destination without issues.

Overlooking Special Handling Instructions

If your package requires special handling, such as being fragile or needing to remain upright, clearly write these instructions on the package label. Failure to do so can result in improper handling and potential damage to your package.

Ignoring Carrier-Specific Requirements

Different carriers have specific requirements or guidelines for writing shipping labels. Ignoring these can lead to your package being rejected or mishandled. Always check with your carrier for any specific labelling requirements they might have.

Tips for Writing International Shipping Labels

Five Tips for Writing International Shipping Labels

When it comes to international shipping, the accuracy and clarity of the shipping label become even more crucial due to the longer transit times and more complex routing. Although handwritten labels may be acceptable for domestic shipments, printing shipping labels rather than writing them by hand for international shipping is highly recommended.

This preference is due to the clarity and uniformity that printed labels provide, which are essential for the automated systems used in international postal services. These labels also typically include essential features like barcodes and tracking numbers, which are crucial for efficiently tracking and handling the package across various international jurisdictions.

However, if you still wish to handwrite international shipping labels, here are some tips and considerations. 

Essential Information on International Labels

For international shipping labels, comprehensive detail is key. 

The label must include the recipient’s correct address with the country clearly mentioned, adhering to the address format of the destination country. 

Equally important is the inclusion of the sender and return address, complete with the country of origin. Including contact numbers for both the sender and the recipient can be invaluable in resolving any delivery issues. 

Most international shipments also require a customs declaration form, which should be accurately filled out and securely attached to the package.

Language Considerations

When addressing international shipments, using English for the address is advisable to avoid translation issues, especially if the destination country uses a different language. 

However, it is generally recommended to write the address in both English and the local language of the destination country. This dual-language approach can facilitate smoother local delivery and handling.

Special Handling and Contents Declaration

Indicating any special handling requirements on the package is crucial. If the package is fragile, perishable, or requires a specific orientation, clearly mark these instructions on the label.

Additionally, accurately declaring the contents and value of the package is essential for customs purposes. Misdeclaration can lead to significant delays or even confiscation.

Carrier-Specific and Country-Specific Requirements

It’s important to be aware of and comply with specific requirements set by your chosen carrier for international labels. Additionally, understanding and adhering to the shipping and customs regulations of the destination country is crucial for ensuring that your package is not held up or rejected upon arrival.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can significantly improve the reliability and efficiency of your international shipments. Proper labelling, including accurate and comprehensive information, is critical to successfully delivering international packages.

For a more detailed exploration of this topic, we invite you to read our dedicated guide, What are International Shipping Labels? This guide offers further insights and in-depth information crucial for international shipping. 

Printing International Shipping Labels

When it comes to printing international shipping labels, the technology you choose plays a significant role in the efficiency and reliability of your shipping process. Understanding the differences between thermal, inkjet, and laser printing technologies is crucial for making an informed decision.

Thermal Printing: The Preferred Choice

Thermal printers are increasingly becoming the preferred choice to generate shipping labels, especially in high-volume environments like international shipping. The key advantage of thermal printing is its speed and efficiency. 

Thermal printers don’t require ink or toner, which means less maintenance and lower running costs. They are also known for their durability and reliability, producing high-quality, smudge-resistant labels that are ideal for the rigours of international transit. To understand how thermal printers work, check out our dedicated guide – How do Thermal Printers Work?

At Triton, we specialise in providing a wide range of thermal printers to suit various business needs. Our selection includes models from leading brands such as Epson, Element, Senor, Honeywell, Zebra, and TSC. We also offer coloured label printers from OKI, catering to businesses that require vibrant and eye-catching labels. 

Our inventory stocks a range of thermal printer models, such as industrial printers, desktop printers, direct thermal printers, thermal transfer printers, barcode label printers, mobile printers and receipt printers. This variety ensures that businesses can find the perfect thermal printer to match their specific requirements.

In addition to printers, Triton offers a comprehensive array of accessories and consumables to enhance your printing experience. This includes spare printer parts and accessories, waterproof printer enclosures, cables and cleaning wipes

We also stock high-quality thermal print heads from renowned brands such as Zebra, Honeywell, TSC, Intermec, Datamax, SATO, and Bizerba, ensuring consistent and top-notch printing performance.

Triton also provides top-tier thermal printer consumables, catering to a broad spectrum of shipping and labelling demands. Our extensive product lineup encompasses thermal transfer ribbons, thermal labels, thermal carton labels, thermal carcase tags, food-compliant thermal inserts, receipt rolls and shipping & freight labels. Each product is meticulously crafted to fulfil the varied needs of businesses of all sizes, ensuring quality and reliability in every item we offer 

Triton is committed to providing more than just products; we offer tailored solutions to meet your unique business needs. Our team of experts is dedicated to guiding you through selecting the ideal printer and providing ongoing support for your equipment. Explore our extensive collection and engage with our professionals through our live chat service to elevate your business’s printing and labelling efficiency.

Inkjet and Laser Printers: Alternatives to Consider

Inkjet and laser printers are viable alternatives for printing shipping labels, each with its own set of advantages. 

Inkjet printers, known for their high-quality printouts, are ideal for lower-volume printing needs. They excel in producing vibrant and detailed labels, making them suitable for businesses that require visually appealing labels. However, inkjet printers may involve higher costs for ink replacement and maintenance.

Laser printers are known for their fast printing capabilities, making them a viable option to print a shipping label. They can quickly produce a large number of labels with consistent quality. However, it’s important to note that laser printers are less energy-efficient, often consuming more power compared to other types of printers. Additionally, the cost of toner replacement and overall maintenance can be relatively high.

To gain a deeper insight into these printing technologies and to see how they stack up against thermal printers, we invite you to explore our detailed guides: Thermal Printers vs Laser Printers and Thermal Printers vs Inkjet Printers. These resources provide an in-depth comparison, helping you make an informed decision for your shipping label needs.

Use BarTender Software to Create Shipping Labels

Use BarTender Software to Create Shipping Labels

In the world of shipping, especially when dealing with a high volume of international shipments, the efficiency and accuracy of label generation are paramount. Advanced software like BarTender by Seagull Scientific can significantly streamline this process, offering a solution that combines consistency, adaptability, and precision.

The use of specialised software for creating shipping labels brings numerous benefits. It ensures consistency in label formatting, which is crucial for readability and scanning accuracy. Software solutions also offer the flexibility to quickly adapt to different label standards and requirements, which is particularly important for international shipping. This adaptability extends to integrating with various databases and systems, allowing for automated data entry and reducing human error risk.

BarTender software is renowned for its broad range of specialised shipping label templates, catering to diverse needs. These templates include options for standard shipping labels, specific formats like ASN Shipping Labels, GS1-128 Labels with GLN, and various carrier-specific labels such as UPS Domestic and USPS IMpb. This extensive range of shipping label template ensures that businesses can meet the specific labelling requirements of different carriers and regulatory bodies.

Moreover, BarTender excels in barcode generation, supporting over 400 preformatted components for more than 105 symbologies. This feature is particularly beneficial for businesses that must comply with various barcode standards across different regions and industries. The software’s ability to link to databases streamlines the label creation process, making it more efficient and less prone to errors.

BarTender is not just about functionality; it’s also about scalability and customisation. Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, BarTender can be scaled to fit your specific needs. It offers robust security features and comprehensive support, enhancing labelling and inventory management processes.

At Triton Store, we proudly offer BarTender software at competitive prices. Recognising that every organisation has unique needs, we provide all four BarTender editions: Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition, and Enterprise Edition. Each edition is designed to cater to different levels of complexity and automation requirements. For businesses looking for the most up-to-date and user-friendly way to manage label printing and design operations remotely, we also provide BarTender Cloud.

To explore how BarTender Software can revolutionise your label printing experience, connect with us through our live chat widget or fill out a form here. For an in-depth understanding of BarTender Software’s capabilities and for a comparison between BarTender Cloud and traditional on-premise BarTender software, refer to the following guides. 

The Bottom Line

In wrapping up our guide on how to write a shipping label, the overarching theme is clear: accuracy and meticulous attention to detail are paramount. 

From ensuring that every component of the label – be it the sender’s and recipient’s information, tracking numbers, or special handling instructions – is correctly and legibly noted to choosing the appropriate method and placement for your label, each step is vital in creating a shipping label manually. 

Whether handwriting a label for a small package or using advanced software for high-volume international shipments, adhering to these best practices is essential. By doing so, you streamline the shipping process and significantly reduce the risk of delays, misdeliveries, or lost items. 

Remember, a well-written shipping label is the cornerstone of successful package delivery, guiding your shipment safely and efficiently to its destination.

We hope this article was useful. 

Thanks for reading! 

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