Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Addresses as Lines and Elements

 tags: address formats,  address elements

Addresses as we look at them on an envelope are made up of lines and they were originally stored in early computers in lines reflecting those on an envelope.

Addresses can be also be looked at as a collection elements – honorific or personal name prefix; family name; given name(s); personal name suffix, company name, company type designator (Ltd., Inc., B.V., GmbH, etc.); thoroughfare types (street, boulevard, circle, etc.); directional (north, southwest, etc.); building designators; zone indicators (zone, industrial district, etc.); post town (city or town of delivery); and so forth.  These elements are combined to create address lines resulting in unique, deliverable addresses.

Looking at addresses as structures of combined elements and allowing for differences in their placement in different countries, lets us create an address template or multiple address templates for each of the countries.  Some countries will share some or all of their templates based on where the elements are located in the address.  Others countries will have vastly different templates.

For example, in addressing a letter to Mr. John Smith in the United States from the U.K. and to another Mr. John Smith in the United Kingdom from the U.S.:  the honorific (Mr.) would be the first element on the left of the top line and the each element of his name (John and Smith) and address would follow it with the destination country the only element on the bottom line.

Mr. John Smith 
1234  E Main St
Somewhere, ST  98765
[honorific] [given name] [middle name] [family name] [name suffix]
[building number] [pre-directional] [street name] [street type] [post-directional]
[town] [province] [postcode]
Mr. John Smith
Smith Towers 
High St
[honorific] [given name] [middle name] [family name] [name suffix]
[building name]
[building number] [street name] [street type]

A database would include all elements, not just those that appear in a particular address, and each country might have multiple templates for different types of addresses, such as P.O. Box and building addresses.  With the elements as basic building blocks and the templates as maps, it would be possible to define any address from any country.

We are not yet at the point where all addresses in all countries are sufficiently well known and defined to create that database with all the elements and templates for every country.  But the work proceeds and makes more accurate international addressing a less elusive goal.