How Do You Address a Letter In Care Of?

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published April 13, 2009, updated July 24, 2023
How Do You Address a Letter In Care Of?

How do you address a letter "in care of?" Though not as common as it used to be, knowing how to send a letter in care of someone else is a helpful skill in business letter writing.

Let's say you are sending a business letter to Jane Doe. Perhaps Jane doesn't currently have a permanent street address. Or maybe you simply don't know Jane's mailing address but need to get a letter to her. 

Whatever the case, John Smith is receiving the letter for Jane. Learn more about what "in care of" means and how to properly address the letter to Jane and John in our tips below. 

What does "in care of" mean?

“In care of” indicates the person to whom you are sending the letter (in this case, Jane Doe) does not live at this address but is receiving mail there. Jane has designated someone at that address to receive and care for her mail (in this case, John Smith.)

“In care of” helps the post office deliver mail correctly, with no confusion about addressee or address, and enables someone traveling or moving or residing temporarily to receive mail at a designated permanent address.

The common abbreviation for "in care of" is c/o. This is typically written using lowercase letters. 

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When do I use "in care of?"

You can use "in care of" when:

  • The recipient's name is unknown or uncertain. For example, if you're mailing a gift to an acquaintance who doesn't live at their current address, you might write "Gift for Mrs. Doe." Or, if you don't know where to send a package, you may put it in care of the U.S. Post Office.
  • The sender knows the correct address, but the recipient lives elsewhere. For example, if a friend moves from one city to another, you might want to send them a card or present so they'll have something familiar to look forward to.
  • The sender wants to ensure that the intended recipient receives the letter. For example, if the sender knows the recipient will be out of town on vacation, she might enclose a note asking the recipient to forward the letter to the recipient's new home address.
  • The sender is sharing sensitive information. Sending a letter "in care of" of someone you trust can help ensure it reaches its correct destination, especially if you're worried about sending it to a bad neighborhood address or attracting unwanted attention. 

You can also use "in care of" if you want to send the letter to someone at a hotel, but you don't know their room number. In this case, you could say "c/o Indigo Hotel." Take the same approach if you don't know the recipient's home address but do know their workplace. E.g., "c/o XYZ Company."

How do I use "in care of?"

Ensure your c/o letter is addressed properly and makes it to the intended recipient. Do this through the letter's salutation and address. 

Salutation "care of" letter example

If you are writing a business letter going to Jane Doe in care of John Smith (or any other recipient for that matter), would you use Dear John or Dear Jane for your salutation?

Since John Smith is simply holding the mail for Jane, the recipient of the letter is Jane. Therefore, the correct salutation is "Dear Jane:"

Envelope or package address "care of" letter example

Address the outside of your letter's envelope with the name of your main recipient in the middle address block. On the second line, underneath their name, add "c/o" and the name of the person connected with the address you're sending the letter to. You'd then add the street address, state, city, and zip code. 

Jane Doe

c/o John Smith

567 Sunshine Avenue

Princeton, NJ 08540

Take the same approach if you're sending the letter to an organization such as a workplace or hotel. Here's what Jane's letter could look like if it was being sent to a business address: 

Jane Doe 

c/o XYZ Company

123 Oak Street

Wilmington, NC 28401

Also, add your correct return address to the top left-hand corner of the envelope or the back. This way, your letter will come back to you from the postal service if it's undeliverable. 

Learn more about the correct format for letters and proper address formats

Address your "in care of" letter with confidence 

When you use "in care of," the letter or package can be received by either party listed on the address. Use it to ensure that your target recipient receives your letter, even if you don't know or don't want to use their personal address.

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Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published April 13, 2009, updated July 24, 2023
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.