Abbreviation of the US State Names for Writers
By Joan Whetzel
Because the names of the States and the US capital are used so frequently in written material and for mailing addresses, they can now be abbreviated in two different ways, depending on how the abbreviations are being used. Writers should be aware of these abbreviations, their uses, and the rules surrounding abbreviations in order to avoid errors.
Where State Name Abbreviations Are Used
The names of the states and the US capitol can be abbreviated in references (e.g. the location identifier at the beginning of newspaper stories) and when addressing letters and envelopes. They are not normally abbreviated when writing sentences and paragraphs. Two sets of Abbreviations, the US Postal Service (USPS) Abbreviations used for mailing letters and packages, and the standard Abbreviations which are used for just about everything else.
Using of Periods and Commas
Commas are placed between city names and the state names, whether abbreviated or not. Commas should also be used between abbreviated state names. Example: CT, NY, TX and N.Y., N.M., W.Va. Use periods with standard abbreviations, but not following the USPS abbreviations.
Associated Press Rules on State Abbreviations
The Associated Press (AP) has a set of rules for the use of state Abbreviations, as well as just about anything else that can be abbreviated. These rules are useful for writers in all genres and are worth investigating, either online or by keeping a copy of the AP Style Book on your writer’s bookshelves. With a little practice and regular use, remembering the Abbreviation rules becomes a matter of habit.
The Associated Press has set up a basic set of Abbreviation rules for the 50 US states and Washington DC.
· When using the state name by itself in a sentence, write the state name out.
· If the state name follows a city name, it can be abbreviated.
· Under the list of standard Abbreviations (which is used by the Associated Press), some of the short state names are not abbreviated.
· If the writer is unsure that his or her readers will recognize the Abbreviation, spell out the state name on first reference to that state, followed by the state’s abbreviation in parenthesis. After that, the state’s name can be abbreviated if it follows a city name and comma.
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