Your Handy Guide to AP Style State Abbreviations

Keep it short and keep it consistent.

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How to Use Abbreviations AP Style

When you’re writing in a formal, business style, abbreviations can be a helpful tool to make your content more concise and accessible to your audience. However, using abbreviations requires careful consideration to maintain clarity and consistency. The Associated Press (AP) style is widely recognized as the gold standard for communicators, providing guidelines on various types of abbreviations. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how AP style approaches different types of abbreviations, offering insights to help you navigate common situations you might encounter.

A Note on Acronyms

An acronym is a specific type of abbreviation where each word in a phrase is represented by a letter or two, as seen in examples like “co.” for “company” or “ROI” for “return on investment.” When using acronyms, it’s essential to consider the context and clarity to ensure your readers can understand them without confusion. The AP style advises against placing acronyms in parentheses or offset with commas after their first use. Instead, the acronym’s meaning should be apparent on second reference or not used at all.

Periods in Abbreviations

In most cases, two-letter acronyms should have periods, such as U.S., U.K., or U.N. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, the AP style does not use periods in acronyms like “AP” (as it is a trademark) and “ID.” As a general guideline, omit periods in other cases unless the result would form another recognizable word.

Abbreviations in Names

AP style generally avoids using courtesy titles like “mister” or “missus” before a name, unless they appear in a direct quote. An exception to this rule is the use of “Dr.” on the first reference, but it should be reserved for medical doctors, not individuals with other advanced academic degrees. For those with other degrees, AP style suggests mentioning the academic distinction, such as “Jane Doe, who holds a doctorate in physics.”

If a person’s name includes a suffix, such as Jr. or Sr., it should be styled accordingly in writing.

State Names and Abbreviations

Traditionally, AP style requires state names to be spelled out in full, either alone or in combination with a city name. However, there has been a recent change in this guideline, allowing for more flexibility with state abbreviations.

There are two significant exceptions to the “spell-out” rule: in datelines (which you probably aren’t using) and in tables (which you might be using). In these instances, if you need to abbreviate state names, avoid using postal code abbreviations and refer to the following approved state abbreviations:

Alabama – AL

Alaska – AK

Arizona – AZ

Arkansas – AR

California – CA

Colorado – CO

Connecticut – CT

Delaware – DE

Florida – FL

Georgia – GA

Hawaii – HI

Idaho – ID

Illinois – IL

Indiana – IN

Iowa – IA

Kansas – KS

Kentucky – KY

Louisiana – LA

Maine – ME

Maryland – MD

Massachusetts – MA

Michigan – MI

Minnesota – MN

Mississippi – MS

Missouri – MO

Montana – MT

Nebraska – NE

Nevada – NV

New Hampshire – NH

New Jersey – NJ

New Mexico – NM

New York – NY

North Carolina – NC

North Dakota – ND

Ohio – OH

Oklahoma – OK

Oregon – OR

Pennsylvania – PA

Rhode Island – RI

South Carolina – SC

South Dakota – SD

Tennessee – TN

Texas – TX

Utah – UT

Vermont – VT

Virginia – VA

Washington – WA

West Virginia – WV

Wisconsin – WI

Wyoming – WY

Time Abbreviations

When indicating morning or night, use “a.m.” or “p.m.” in lowercase and with periods. For example, “9 a.m.” or “6 p.m.”

When referring to a month on its own, write it out in full. However, if used in conjunction with a date, abbreviate these months with a period, such as Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. All other months should be written out in full.

It’s important to note that, unless used in a table, it is recommended to write out the days of the week in full rather than using abbreviations.


Mastering AP style state abbreviations is essential for communicators who strive for clarity, consistency, and professionalism in their writing. By adhering to the guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can confidently use abbreviations in your content while maintaining readability and precision. Remember to establish your own house style and ensure consistency throughout your writing. Abbreviations, when used correctly, can enhance the flow and accessibility of your writing, providing a streamlined reading experience for your audience.

So, go ahead and incorporate these AP style state abbreviations into your writing toolkit, and elevate your communication with concise and consistent usage of abbreviations.

Written by Martin Cole

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Your Handy Guide to AP Style State Abbreviations

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Your Handy Guide to AP Style State Abbreviations