AP Insists That You Remember All Four S’s in ‘Mississippi’


M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I…

Oh, Associated Press. We love you so, but you insist on hurting us!

Last month you tried to tell us that “over” and “more than” are interchangeable when describing quantities, and we almost fell into conniptions. Now you tell us that we can no longer use any abbreviations for proper state names!

“Effective May 1, the AP will spell out state names in the body of stories. Datelines will continue to use abbreviations.”

And why might that be?

The organization claims the move is in the interest of consistency and efficiency, but we’re not so sure. If anything, we’d say the new rules make everything even more complicated.

For example:

“State abbreviations will continue to be used in lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor’s notes and credit lines…Photo captions will continue to use abbreviations, too.”

And we just got started:

“The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

Memory Aid: Spell out the names of the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and of the continental states that are five letters or fewer.”

Love that last part.

The idea is that journalists (and press release writers) should have to mention each state less often–especially if it’s identified in the dateline as it always should be. We haven’t really had time to do the math yet, but we feel like the issue of whether this move is actually a time saver has a lot to do with where you live: good news for the people of Hawaii, bad news for every journalist in Massachusetts.

Wait, did you think it was over? Oh no. Abbreviations must still be used:

  • When in conjunction with names of cities, towns, villages or military bases in most datelines
  • When listing a politician’s party affiliation


“Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline…”

And finally:

“Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines whenever possible.”

Well now we have a headache. But we’re still glad we live in simple, easy-to-spell New York, right?

“MISCELLANEOUS: Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.”

[H/T Poynter]

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.