AP: Spell out state names in stories

If you write your press releases in AP style, get ready to start spelling out “Massachusetts” a lot more often.


The Associated Press has already raised considerable ire with its decision to make “over” an acceptable substitute for “more than,” but it isn’t finished making changes to its widely used stylebook. The newest rule, which went out over the AP wire Wednesday, instructs reporters to start spelling out the full names of U.S. states in the body copy of an article. The reason for the change, according to the memo, is consistency: “The change is being made to be consistent in our style for domestic and international stories. International stories have long spelled out state names in the body of stories.” Here’s the full rule, according to Poynter:

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. This also applies to newspapers cited in a story. For example, a story datelined Providence, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal. See datelines.

State names will still be abbreviated in datelines and alongside party affiliations next to the names of office holders.

Most of the Twitter response to the change was some ribbing about how journalists have made such an effort to remember the AP’s abbreviations, which differ from postal abbreviations, and now they largely won’t be using them.

If your press releases use AP style, take note. The new rule goes into effect May 1.

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