States

The state of...

Always lowercase the word state in constructions such as, "the state of Michigan." In general, the construction the "state of" is unnecessary and should not be used, except as a nonspecific reference to the government of a state or in cases such as "state of Washington" or "state of New York," to distinguish between the state and the well-known city of the same name.

Use: Funding was provided by the state of Michigan (meaning the government).
Use: He was born in Michigan (not the state of Michigan).
See similar style under cities.

Spell out state names in most cases

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out in general text, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. See the cities entry for a list of large cities that never need to be identified by state.

When to use abbreviations

Use the state abbreviations listed at the end of this section only in the following cases.

  • In conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base in most datelines, use the traditional abbreviation.
  • In lists and tabular material, use the traditional abbreviation.
  • In short-form listings of party affiliation, use the traditional abbreviation (D-Ala., R-Mont.).
  • When used in an address, use the two-letter USPS abbreviation. (For more information, write to Joan Jones, 23 Any St, Greensburg PA 15601-2001.) See also addresses. When used to clarify location, the state name should be spelled out. (We traveled to DeKalb, Illinois, for the football game.) If the construction includes a ZIP code, it's an address; if it does not, it's a location. See also addresses.

When writing news stories, no state name is necessary in the body of the story if it is the same as the dateline. So, for example, if your dateline reads "KALAMAZOO, Mich.," then every city you list is presumed to be in Michigan. If a city is located in another state, you need to spell out that state name fully.

How to abbreviate state names

State abbreviations
Name USPS Traditional*
Alabama AL Ala.
Alaska AK Akaska
American Somoa AS Amer. Somoa
Arizona AZ Ariz.
Arkansas AR Ark.
California CA Calif.
Colorado CO Colo.
Connecticut CT Conn.
Delaware DE Del.
District of Columbia DC D.C.
Florida FL Fla.
Georgia GA Ga.
Hawaii HI Hawaii
Idaho ID Idaho
Illinois IL Ill.
Indiana IN Ind.
Iowa IA Iowa
Kansas KS Kan.
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.
Nevada NV Nev.
New Hampshire NH N.H.
New Jersey NJ N.J.
New Mexico NM N.M.
New York NY N.Y.
North Carolina NC N.C.
North Dakota ND N.D.
Ohio OH Ohio
Oklahoma OK Okla.
Oregon OR Ore.
Pennsylvania PA Pa.
Puerto Rico PR P.R.
Rhode Island RI R.I.
South Carolina SC S.C.
South Dakota SD S.D.
Tennessee TN Tenn.
Texas TX Texas
Utah UT Utah
Vermont VT Vt.
Virginia VA Va.
Virgin Islands VI V.I.
Washington WA Wash.
West Virginia WV W.Va.
Wisconsin WI Wis.
Wyoming WY Wyo.

Eight states not abbreviated

The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Memory aid: States with five or fewer letters, plus Alaska and Hawaii, are never abbreviated.