The details to poise your writing for success

U.S. States and Territories

States—spell out or abbreviate?

Both CMS and AP agree, spell out state names within text.

Abbreviate state names in lists, tabular matter, bibliographies, and mailing addresses.

AP mentions to also abbreviate states in datelines, credit lines, and short-form party affiliation D-Ariz.

How to abbreviate states in tabular matter:

Chicago style: Use two-letter postal codes (CA) in tabular matter unless your publisher prefers traditional abbreviations (Calif.).

AP style: Use traditional abbreviations in tabular matter. Only use two-letter postal codes in full mailing address with zip.

Chicago and AP differ on some traditional abbreviations. See table below.

Commas with city and state:

Enclose state in commas, even if used as an adjective. Except in mailing addresses with a zip code, or with other punctuation. Treat county + state or city + country the same way. 10.28, 10.30, 6.46, 6.17. AP: State names.

Hays, Kansas, was the next stop.

I work in the Hays, Kansas, office.

The county seat of Ellis County, Kansas, is Hays.

Our address is 1000 Main St., Hays, KS 67601.

Smith, Pam. Book Title. Hays, KS: Wahl Press, 2000.

Washington, D.C. / DC

Chicago style: Use Washington, DC, for Chicago style, or Washington, D.C., if your publisher prefers traditional abbreviations. No need to spell out District of Columbia, even in text.

AP style: Use Washington alone in text and datelines. Use Washington, D.C., if you need to differentiate from Washington state. Use District of Columbia only when part of an official name. May use the district on second reference. Do not use D.C. alone unless within a quote. In a mailing address, use Washington, DC 20001. These are the updated 2017 guidelines, which are different from previous versions. [source: 2017 update: state names, District of Columbia,]

With “state”

Use New York state, Washington state, etc. to distinguish from cities of the same name. No cap on “state.”

State Abbreviations

CMS and AP agree on most abbreviations. CMS only=blue. AP only=orange. Bold=not abbreviated.

State Postal Traditional
Alabama AL Ala.
Alaska AK Alaska or Alas.
Arizona AZ Ariz.
Arkansas AR Ark.
California CA Calif.
Colorado CO Colo.
Connecticut CT Conn.
Delaware DE Del.
Florida FL Fla.
Georgia GA Ga.
Hawaii HI Hawaii
Idaho ID Idaho
Illinois IL Ill.
Indiana IN Ind.
Iowa IA Iowa
Kansas KS Kans.
Kentucky KY Ky.
Louisiana LA La.
Maine ME Maine
Maryland MD Md.
Massachusetts MA Mass.
Michigan MI Mich.
Minnesota  MN Minn.
Mississippi MS Miss.
Missouri MO Mo.
Montana MT Mont.
Nebraska NE Neb. or Nebr.
New Hampshire NH N.H.
New Jersey NJ N.J.
New Mexico NM N.Mex.
New York NY N.Y.
Nevada NV Nev.
North Carolina NC N.C.
North Dakota ND N.Dak.
Ohio OH Ohio
Oklahoma OK Okla.
Oregon OR Ore. or Oreg.
Pennsylvania PA Pa.
Rhode Island RI R.I.
South Carolina SC S.C.
South Dakota SD S.Dak.
Tennessee TN Tenn.
Texas TX Tex.
Utah UT Utah
Vermont VT Vt.
Virginia VA Va.
Washington WA Wash.
Washington, D.C. DC D.C.
West Virginia WV W.Va.
Wisconsin WI Wis. or Wisc.
Wyoming WY Wyo.


U.S. territory abbreviations

Chicago style: Spell out in most cases. Only abbreviate in tabular matter if there is no possibility of confusion. If your publisher prefers traditional abbreviations, do not abbreviate most of these. 10.28. 

AP style: Do not abbreviate any of these, including datelines.

Territory Postal Traditional
American Samoa AS Do not abbreviate.
Federated States of Micronesia FM Do not abbreviate.
Guam GU Do not abbreviate.
Marshall Islands MH Do not abbreviate.
Northern Mariana Islands MP Do not abbreviate.
Puerto Rico PR P.R. or do not abbreviate.
Do not abbreviate.
Palau PW Do not abbreviate.
Virgin Islands VI V.I. or do not abbreviate.
Do not abbreviate.

Canadian province and territory abbreviations

Chicago style: Spell out in text. May abbreviate in tabular matter. If your publisher prefers traditional abbreviations, do not abbreviate.

AP style: Do not abbreviate any of these, including in datelines.

Alberta AB
British Columbia BC
Manitoba MB
New Brunswick NB
Newfoundland and Labrador NL
Nova Scotia NS
Northwest Territories NT
Nunavut NV
Ontario ON
Prince Edward Island PE
Quebec QC
Saskatchewan SK
Yukon YT


AP has a number of specific rules for datelines, which denote where the story’s information was obtained. Most cities should include an abbreviated state (or full country or Canadian province), but certain large cities should be listed alone. Use one space on either side of the dash. Please consult the AP Stylebook for the full list of cities.  473, 419, 74-76

OMAHA, Neb. — Police have identified . . .
ATLANTA — Police have identified . . .
EDMONTON, Alberta — Police have . . .
PARIS — Police have . . .

Regarding the dash, it has a space on either side in AP style. AP has a rather frustrating stance on dashes. Their news transmission system does not have an en or em dash, just a hyphen and a “dash.”

The problem is that in the printed AP Stylebook, this “dash” appears to be an em dash — but at it appears to be an en dash – and in printed and online newspapers, the dash length varies. Furthering the confusion in their Q&A section, they repeatedly refer to typing the dash as an “underscore,” which, in any other system, would be bizarre _ right?

A few of their answers suggest substituting two hyphens — or an em dash — or even an en dash – . Each should have a space on either side for AP style. I wholeheartedly vote for the em dash — as the proper substitute!