The Meaning of ATTN: What It Is and How To Use It

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the abbreviation ATTN, including its definition, synonyms, useful examples, and more!

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What does ATTN mean?

According to Longman English Dictionary, the abbreviation ATTN is short for “attention.” This is used on a letter or package to state that it is for a specific person. This is usually considered optional, but can be useful when sending a letter or package to the mailing address of a large company at which there are many potential recipients. In this case, one can put ATTN before the intended recipient’s name on the first line, followed by the company name on the second line. One can either use an all caps ATTN, or only capitalize the first letter, as “Attn.”

ATTN can also be used in emails. Biz Fluent states that one can put ATTN or “attention” in the subject line of an email address when one is sending an email to a general department or company email. If one does not have the specific email of someone at the company, they can use ATTN when emailing these more generic addresses so that whoever opens the general email can forward it to the correct person. 

The Free Dictionary, along with other dictionary apps, list numerous other meanings for the word ATTN. These other meanings are acronyms, which means each letter stands for a word, unlike the previously discussed meaning of ATTN, in which it was an abbreviation for a single word. These acronyms are less common meanings of ATTN, so one should exercise caution when using them. Unless the context is abundantly clear, one will likely think the speaker or writer means “attention.” One should always be careful when using acronyms and make sure their meaning is clear.

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Unlike many other common abbreviations, ATTN is not considered a slang term. Other social media abbreviations like LOL, BRB, and OMG might be considered too casual for a business environment, but using ATTN is perfectly acceptable and considered professional when it is used on letters, packages, and emails.

Where is the abbreviation ATTN commonly seen?

The abbreviation ATTN is most commonly seen on business letters or packages. When mailing something to a residency, this is usually not necessary, as the recipient is the only occupant of the house or apartment. However, when using the postal service to send something to a larger company, or an address with many companies within it, using ATTN is a surefire way to ensure the letter or package reaches the correct person. Many postal and parcel services like USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS are familiar with this abbreviation and know how to use it in their mailing system.

What is the difference between ATTN and ℅? 

While the word ATTN and abbreviation ℅, short for “care of” may be similar in meaning, they are not synonyms. MacMillan Thesaurus shows the difference between these two: while ATTN describes the intended recipient, ℅ is used to show that the intended recipient is not at the address it is being mailed to, or is not a permanent resident there.

Classroom states that ℅ should only be used when sending a letter or package to a person who does not live or work at the mailing address. This could be used when sending a letter to someone who is staying at a friend’s house, or if someone sends a gift, letter or package to someone for one of their clients. For example, one can use ℅ when addressing a piece of fan mail to a celebrity that is being sent to their agent or manager. 

How can ATTN be used on a letter or package?

Biz Fluent states that many people incorrectly place their attention lines on letters and packages. Many people mistakenly place this abbreviation at the bottom left corner of an envelope or package. They may think this draws additional attention to it from a post office worker, which it may have when humans handled all mail by hand. However nowadays, these labels are read by a handwriting recognition machine, and these machines do not recognize any words in that position.

Instead, one should place the attention line in the first line of the address. USPS even calls this the attention line, or recipient line. In the line after the person’s name, the sender should write the company name. Then, this is followed by the address itself. The USPS has worked with many businesses to come up with this standard that is easy for their recognition machines to read. This increases accuracy and efficiency in getting letters and packages delivered. The recipient’s address should go in the center of the envelope, and the return address should go in the upper left hand corner. Below is an example of how to use ATTN when addressing a letter to someone at a large company.

 ATTN: JOHN SMITH

ACME TALENT AGENCY

1234 ARTIST AVENUE SUITE 900

BEVERLY HILLS, CA 90210

Here, the first line is the intended recipient, and the second line is the company. Note that the suite number is at the end of address line one, as is standard according to Service Objects. The “CA” in address line two stands for California. Each state has its own two-letter abbreviation for ease when addressing letters and packages.

Overall, the abbreviation ATTN is used on letters, packages, and in email subject lines when mailing something to the address of a larger company. This is used on the first line before the intended recipient’s name. The company name will be listed on the second line. This is commonly seen on many letters and packages.

Sources:

  1. https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/ATTN
  2. https://www.macmillanthesaurus.com/us/c-o
  3. https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/attn#:~:text=attention)%20used%20to%20say%20that,OF%20%E2%86%92%20see%20under%20attention
  4. https://bizfluent.com/how-8476929-address-mail-attn.html
  5. https://bizfluent.com/12078609/how-to-address-an-envelope-using-attn
  6. https://www.serviceobjects.com/blog/why-address-line-2-should-never-be-offered-in-address-forms/#:~:text=Suites%20and%20apartment%20numbers%20should,should%20go%20above%20the%20address.
  7. https://classroom.synonym.com/the-rules-for-attn-in-an-address-12084076.html