For the second time in a month’s span, AP has changed the rules in writing. Effective May 1, the AP will spell out state names in the body of stories. Currently, most state names are abbreviated in stories. The change is being made to be consistent in style for domestic and international stories, as international stories traditionally spell out state names in the body of stories.
State abbreviations will continue to be used in lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor’s notes and credit lines. They will also be used in short-form identification of political party affiliation. Photo captions will continue to use abbreviations, too. This change will improve consistency and efficiency for domestic and international stories, eliminating the need to spell out all state names in international copy, and to abbreviate them in domestic copy. Please note that you will still use abbreviations in datelines, photo captions, lists, etc.
The new entry in the Stylebook online
Spell out state names
The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. This also applies to newspapers cited in a story. For example, a story datelined Providence, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal. See datelines.
Eight not abbreviated
The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Spell out the names of the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and of the continental states that are five letters or fewer.
In the body of stories
Except for cities that stand alone in datelines, use thestate name in textual material when the city or town is not in the same state as the dateline, or where necessary to avoid confusion: Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, Illinois. Provide a state identification for the city if the story has no dateline, or if the city is not in the same state as the dateline. However, cities that stand alone in datelines may be used alone in stories that have no dateline if no confusion would result.
Use the state abbreviations listed at the end of this section:
- In conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base in most datelines. See datelines for examples and exceptions for large cities.
- In lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor’s notes and credit lines.
- In short-form listings of party affiliation: D-Ala., R-Mont. See party affiliation entry for details.
Following are the state abbreviations, which also appear in the entries for each state (postal code abbreviations in parentheses)
Ala. (AL) Md. (MD) N.D. (ND)
Ariz. (AZ) Mass. (MA) Okla. (OK)
Ark. (AR) Mich. (MI) Ore. (OR)
Calif. (CA) Minn. (MN) Pa. (PA)
Colo. (CO) Miss. (MS) R.I. (RI)
Conn. (CT) Mo. (MO) S.C. (SC)
Del. (DE) Mont. (MT) S.D. (SD)
Fla. (FL) Neb. (NE) Tenn. (TN)
Ga. (GA) Nev. (NV) Vt. (VT)
Ill. (IL) N.H. (NH) Va. (VA)
Ind. (IN) N.J. (NJ) Wash. (WA)
Kan. (KS) N.M. (NM) W.Va. (WV)
Ky. (KY) N.Y. (NY) Wis. (WI)
La. (LA) N.C. (NC) Wyo. (WY)
These are the postal code abbreviations for the eight states that are not abbreviated in datelines or text: AK (Alaska), HI (Hawaii), ID (Idaho), IA (Iowa), ME (Maine), OH (Ohio), TX (Texas), UT (Utah). Also: District of Columbia (DC).
Use the two-letter Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including ZIP code.
Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley’s stronghold.
Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines whenever possible.
Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.
Use state of Washington or Washington state when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. (Washington State is the name of a university in the state of Washington.)