Your Handy Guide to AP Style State Abbreviations

Understanding and Utilizing Abbreviations in AP Style

handwritten text
Photo by Micah Boswell on Unsplash

Key Takeaways

Abbreviations can enhance readability and conciseness in formal writing.

AP style provides guidelines for using abbreviations consistently.

Acronyms and abbreviations may require periods, except for some common exceptions.

Names should generally omit courtesy titles, except for “Dr.” on first reference for medical doctors.

State names are typically spelled out, except in datelines and tables.

Time indications use “a.m.” and “p.m.” with lowercase and periods.

Months are written in full when standing alone, but abbreviated with periods when used with a date.

Days of the week should be spelled out, except in specific contexts like tables.


When it comes to writing in a formal and business style, abbreviations can be a valuable tool for enhancing readability and reducing wordiness. However, it’s important to use abbreviations correctly and consistently to maintain clarity and professionalism. In the realm of communications, the Associated Press (AP) style serves as the gold standard for writers and communicators. This guide will take you on a journey through the world of AP style state abbreviations and provide insights on other commonly used abbreviations. By adhering to AP style guidelines, you can ensure consistency and precision in your writing.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Before delving into state abbreviations specifically, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between abbreviations and acronyms. While both shorten words or phrases, acronyms specifically involve reducing each word in a phrase to one or two letters. For example, “Hewlett Packard” becomes “HP” or “return on investment” becomes “ROI.” In AP style, it is generally unnecessary to provide the full phrase after the first reference to the acronym, as long as it is clear to the reader what it stands for.

Periods in Abbreviations

When it comes to two-letter acronyms, such as U.S., U.K., or U.N., AP style typically recommends using periods. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, “AP” does not require periods because it is a trademark, and “ID” is another exception. In most cases, abbreviations do not include periods unless their exclusion would result in the formation of another word.

Names and Titles

AP style generally avoids using courtesy titles like “mister” or “missus” before a name, except in direct quotations. However, there is one exception: the use of “Dr.” on the first reference, but only when referring to medical doctors. For individuals with other advanced academic degrees, it is best to designate their credentials in a different manner, such as “Jane Doe, who holds a doctorate in physics.” When a person has a suffix after their name, such as Jr. or Sr., it should be styled accordingly.

State Names

In most cases, AP style recommends spelling out state names in full, whether they appear alone or in conjunction with a city name. However, it is important to note that this guideline has undergone recent changes, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you have been using abbreviations. There are two major exceptions to this rule: datelines and tables. In these contexts, state names can be abbreviated, but it is crucial to avoid using postal code abbreviations and instead use the specified abbreviations for each state.

Time Indications

When indicating time, AP style suggests using “a.m.” and “p.m.” in lowercase letters with periods. This convention is particularly useful when referring to events happening in the morning or at night. It provides clarity and avoids any potential confusion.

Months and Days of the Week

When referring to a month standing alone, it is recommended to write it out in full. However, when used in conjunction with a date, months should be abbreviated using periods. For example, January becomes “Jan.,” February becomes “Feb.,” and so on. The only exception to this guideline is when writing in tables, where months can be spelled out in full for improved readability. Additionally, days of the week should be spelled out in general writing, with no abbreviations, unless there are specific formatting requirements or the context calls for it.


Abbreviations play a vital role in formal writing, allowing for greater readability and conciseness. Adhering to AP style guidelines ensures consistency and clarity in the usage of abbreviations, including state abbreviations. By following the recommendations provided in this guide, you can confidently incorporate abbreviations into your writing while maintaining professionalism and precision. Remember to consult the AP Stylebook for any specific cases or updates to the guidelines. Mastering the art of abbreviations in AP style will elevate your writing and help you effectively communicate with your audience.

Written by Martin Cole

three crumpled yellow papers on green surface surrounded by yellow lined papers

How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Gaslighting: A Guide to Dealing with Manipulation

closeup photo of cutout decors

Your Handy Guide to AP Style State Abbreviations