State Abbreviations

Principles of Punctuation and Mechanics in English

Map of US
Postal abbreviations of the 50 states are always two letters, both capitalized, without any periods. Filo/Getty Images

Wondering when to use abbreviations versus the full names when writing about states? As a general rule, the names of states should be spelled out when they appear in sentences. For example:

Our family had been transferred from Endicott, New York, to Raleigh, North Carolina. That was the word used by the people at IBM, transferred .
(David Sedaris, Naked, 1997)

Both men were raised in the Midwest  (Garfield in Ohio, Guiteau in Illinois) by a single, widowed parent.
(Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation, 2005)

When to Use State Abbreviations

In bibliographies, lists, and mailing addresses, state names are usually abbreviated.

The two-letter, no-period state abbreviations recommended by the U.S. Postal Service (see Postal Abbreviations in the chart below) should always be used where a ZIP code follows. These postal (or ZIP code) abbreviations may also be used in any context where abbreviations are appropriate.

Some writers and editors still prefer to use the older forms of state abbreviations (see Traditional Abbreviations in the table below). If you follow this practice, be consistent in your use of the traditional abbreviations, and remember that eight states (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah) are only rarely abbreviated when using the older (pre-ZIP code) forms.

Finally, United States may be abbreviated to U.S. when used as an adjective, but in formal writing, it's customarily spelled out as a noun.

List of State Abbreviations

STATEPOSTAL ABBREVIATIONTRADITIONAL ABBREVIATION
AlabamaALAla.
AlaskaAKAlaska
ArizonaAZAriz.
ArkansasARArk.
CaliforniaCACalif.
ColoradoCOColo.
ConnecticutCTConn.
DelawareDEDel.
District of ColumbiaDCD.C.
FloridaFLFla.
GeorgiaGAGa.
HawaiiHIHawaii
IdahoIDIdaho
IllinoisILIll.
IndianaINInd.
IowaIAIowa
KansasKSKans.
KentuckyKYKy.
LouisianaLALa.
MaineMEMaine
MarylandMDMd.
MassachusettsMAMass.
MichiganMIMich.
MinnesotaMNMinn.
MississippiMSMiss.
MissouriMOMo.
MontanaMTMont.
NebraskaNENeb. or Nebr.
NevadaNVNev.
New HampshireNHN.H.
New JerseyNJN.J.
New MexicoNMN.Mex.
New YorkNYN.Y.
North CarolinaNCN.C.
North DakotaNDN.Dak.
OhioOHOhio
OklahomaOKOkla.
OregonOROre. or Oreg.
PennsylvaniaPAPa.
Rhode IslandRIR.I.
South CarolinaSCS.C.
South DakotaSDS.Dak.
TennesseeTNTenn.
TexasTXTex. or Texas
UtahUTUtah
VermontVTVt.
VirginiaVAVa.
WashingtonWAWash.
West VirginiaWVW.Va.
WisconsinWIWis. or Wisc.
WyomingWYWyo.