Proofreading Tips: State Abbreviations in AP Style

The Associated Press is a popular style guide for public-facing corporate communication. Proofreaders will most likely encounter it while working with journalists or PR specialists in the US. And the AP Stylebook has some pretty specific rules for abbreviations, including state abbreviations. As a proofreader, then, you should be on the lookout for any instances where your client has made mistakes when using these abbreviations. To help you, we’ve summarized the guidelines for state abbreviations in AP style.

AP Style’s Rules for Abbreviating State Names

The first thing to be aware of as a proofreader is that AP style only requires state names to be abbreviated in specific circumstances. These are:

  • When the state name appears alongside a city, town, village, or military base in most datelines. (A dateline is a brief statement included at the beginning of news articles that describes when and where the story was written.)
  • In lists, tables, non-publishable editor’s notes, and credit lines.
  • In short-form listings of party affiliations (e.g., representing Democrat Alabama as D-Ala. or Republican Montana as R-Mont.). 

Having a solid grasp of these three rules will help you decide if your client’s abbreviation of a state name is appropriate. However, there are exceptions to the rules above. 

State names should not be abbreviated:

Top tip: there are eight states that are never abbreviated in datelines or main body text. These are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. 

Remembering these will help you know when to correct your client’s use of state abbreviations in AP style.

State Abbreviations in AP Style

AP has its own style of state abbreviations. Confusingly, these are different from US postal code abbreviations. Below is a table of the state abbreviations in AP style (for reference, the postal code abbreviations are in parentheses).

State NameAssociated Press AbbreviationState NameAssociated Press Abbreviation
AlabamaAla. (AL)NebraskaNeb. (NE)
ArizonaAriz. (AZ)NevadaNev. (NV)
ArkansasArk. (AR)New HampshireN.H. (NH)
CaliforniaCalif. (CA)New JerseyN.J. (NJ)
ColoradoColo. (CO)New MexicoM.M. (NM)
ConnecticutConn. (CT)New YorkN.Y. (NY)
DelawareDel. (DE)North CarolinaN.C. (NC)
FloridaFla. (FL)North DakotaN.D. (ND)
GeorgiaGa. (GA)OklahomaOkla. (OK)
IllinoisIll. (IL)OregonOre. (OR)
IndianaInd. (IN)PennsylvaniaPa. (PA)
KansasKan. (KS)Rhode IslandR.I. (RI)
KentuckyKy. (KY)South CarolinaS.C. (SC)
LouisianaLa. (LA)South DakotaS.D. (SD)
MarylandMd. (MD)TennesseeTenn. (TN)
MassachusettsMass. (MA)VermontVt. (VT)
MichiganMich. (MI)VirginiaVa. (VA)
MinnesotaMinn. (MN)WashingtonWash. (WA)
MississippiMiss. (MS)West VirginiaW.Va. (WV)
MissouriMo. (MO)WisconsinWis. (WI)
MontanaMont. (MT)WyomingWyo. (WY)

You can refer to this table should you need to check a state abbreviation for your client (making sure it’s also abbreviated in line with the rules set out in the previous section). As a proofreader, you should also be on the lookout for whether your client has punctuated and capitalized abbreviations correctly. 

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