There are quite a few rules in the AP Stylebook for state names and AP Style state abbreviations. In this post, we will summarize all of the AP Stylebook state abbreviations rules.
When To Spell Out Full Name
If a state’s name is standing alone or in conjunction with a city or town in your text, spell out the entire state’s name. This goes for all 50 states. For example,
- The state of Michigan is made up of two peninsulas.
- I am on my way to visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
However, any state name may be condensed to fit typographical requirements for tabular material.
Do Not Abbreviate These Eight States
There are eight states that are never abbreviated in datelines or text. Those states are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
A good way to remember these eight is to always spell out the names of the two states outside the contiguous United States (Hawaii and Alaska) and the states inside the contiguous United States with five letters or less.
Use the state abbreviations found below when they are,
- In conjunction with the name of a city, town, village, or military base in most datelines. For example, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. For exceptions to this rule, please see datelines.
- In list, agate, tabular material, editor’s notes, and credit lines.
- In short-form listings of political party affiliation: D-Mich., R-Ind., I-Conn.
Below are the 50 AP Style state abbreviations (postal code abbreviations are in parenthesis),
Alabama: Ala. (AL)
Arizona: Ariz. (AZ)
Arkansas: Ark. (AR)
California: Calif. (CA)
Colorado: Colo. (CO)
Connecticut: Conn. (CT)
Delaware: Del. (DE)
Florida: Fla. (FL)
Georgia: Ga. (GA)
Illinois: Ill. (IL)
Indiana: Ind. (IN)
Kansas: Kan. (KS)
Kentucky: Ky. (KY)
Louisiana: La. (LA)
Maryland: Md. (MD)
Massachusetts: Mass. (MA)
Michigan: Mich. (MI)
Minnesota: Minn. (MN)
Mississippi: Miss (MS)
Missouri: Mo. (MO)
Montana: Mont. (MT)
Nebraska: Neb. (NE)
Nevada: Nev. (NV)
New Hampshire: N.H. (NH)
New Jersey: N.J. (NJ)
New Mexico: N.M. (NM)
New York: N.Y. (NY)
North Carolina: N.C. (NC)
North Dakota: N.D. (ND)
Oklahoma: Okla. (OK)
Oregon: Ore. (OR)
Pennsylvania: Pa. (PA)
Rhode Island: R.I. (RI)
South Carolina: S.C. (SC)
South Dakota: S.D. (SD)
Tennessee: Tenn. (TN)
Vermont: Vt. (VT)
Virginia: Va. (VA)
Washington: Wash. (WA)
West Virginia: W.Va. (WV)
Wisconsin: Wis. (WI)
Wyoming: Wyo. (WY)
Postal codes for those eight states that are not to be abbreviated,
District of Columbia: (DC)
Postal Code abbreviations should only be used with full addresses, including a zip code. For example,
- Send the package to 2879 Silver Creek Drive, Spring Hill, MO, 48998.
When punctuating state names, you should place a comma between the city and state, and another comma after the state name, unless the state name is ending the sentence or indicating a dateline. For example,
- I am taking a trip to Athens, Mississippi, to see the landscape. (Comma between city and state and after state.)
- Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is the ranking member of the committee. (Comma before and after.)
- My hometown is Springfield, IL. (No comma after state abbreviation because it ends the sentence)
States in Headlines
For those states that are abbreviated with two capital letters (NY, NJ, NH, NM, NC, SC, ND, SD, RI), do not use periods in headlines. The other states, however, retain their periods when appearing in headlines (Mich., Wyo., Pa., etc.).
As it is necessary, use New York state to differentiate the state of New York from New York City. In line with this, use state of Washington or Washington state to differentiate the state from the District of Columbia. Also, be sure to use a lowercase “state” in both of these instances to avoid any confusion. For example,
- Washington State is a university in the state of Washington.
As you can see, there are many guidelines for writing proper AP Style state abbreviations in your text. If you have any other questions about them, feel free to email me at Jordan@writingexplained.org