Two Letter US State and Possession Postal Service Abbreviations

letter_carrier.jpg
Study group finds Americans would sacrifice some mail services to make sure the Postal Service survives. Getty Images

Believe it or not, lots people still send real "snail" mail, which still requires printing a mailing address on the envelope or package.

Until 1963, the Post Office Department – now the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) – “preferred” that the names of states and U.S. territories in addressing mail be fully spelled out to avoid confusion, but accepted abbreviations commonly used by the public.

Then on July 1, 1963, the Post Office Department, in order to speed delivery by further automating its mail handling processes, created the five-digit ZIP Code to be placed after the state name in the last line of an address.

At the same time, the Postal Service created official 2-digit state and possession abbreviations in order to make it possible to enter the state, and Five–Digit ZIP Code (or ZIP+4 Code) on the last line of the address within 28 characters and spaces when necessary. This addressing abbreviation scheme allows for 13 characters for the city name, 1 space between the city name and the state name abbreviation, 2 characters for the state abbreviation, 2 spaces (preferred by the USPS) between the state abbreviation and the ZIP Code, and 10 characters for the ZIP+4 Code.

Since its creation in 1963, the official Postal Service list of state and territory abbreviations has been changed only once. In 1969, the two-letter abbreviation for Nebraska was changed from NB to NE in order to avoid confusion with the Canadian postal service’s designation for New Brunswick, Canada.

Most of the abbreviations follow easily recognized and remembered phonetic patters, like TX (Texas) and OK (Oklahoma), while others, like MS (Mississippi) and MO (Missouri)  are more often confused.

But don't worry. In cases where the wrong state abbreviation is used, Postal Service mail sorting systems will usually route the letter to the right location based on the city name and Zip Code. 

State abbreviations and US Possession abbreviations as currently recognized by the U.S. Postal Service.

State/Possession : Abbreviation

ALABAMA -- AL

ALASKA -- AK

AMERICAN SAMOA -- AS

ARIZONA -- AZ

ARKANSAS -- AR

CALIFORNIA -- CA

COLORADO -- CO

CONNECTICUT -- CT

DELAWARE -- DE

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA -- DC

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA -- FM

FLORIDA -- FL

GEORGIA -- GA

GUAM -- GU

HAWAII -- HI

IDAHO -- ID

ILLINOIS -- IL

INDIANA -- IN

IOWA -- IA

KANSAS -- KS

KENTUCKY -- KY

LOUISIANA -- LA

MAINE -- ME

MARSHALL ISLANDS -- MH

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

NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS -- MP

OHIO -- OH

OKLAHOMA -- OK

OREGON -- OR

PALAU -- PW

PENNSYLVANIA -- PA

PUERTO RICO -- PR

RHODE ISLAND -- RI

SOUTH CAROLINA -- SC

SOUTH DAKOTA -- SD

TENNESSEE -- TN

TEXAS -- TX

UTAH -- UT

VERMONT -- VT

VIRGIN ISLANDS -- VI

VIRGINIA -- VA

WASHINGTON -- WA

WEST VIRGINIA -- WV

WISCONSIN -- WI

WYOMING – WY

US Military “State” -- Abbreviation

Armed Forces Africa -- AE

Armed Forces Americas (except Canada) -- AA

Armed Forces Canada -- AE

Armed Forces Europe -- AE

Armed Forces Middle East --AE

Armed Forces Pacific -- AP