AP Style Guide To Abbreviations

AP Style Guide to Abbreviations

Nobody can remember all the abbreviations for AP style, but learning the basic rules of abbreviations and those used most frequently will save you a look-up or two.

So you have to write in AP style but can’t seem to remember all those annoying abbreviations and when to use what? Relax, with practice and double-checking you will begin to remember the abbreviations without trying. Here is a guide to the most commonly used abbreviations: your one-stop shop.

The Basic Rules of AP Abbreviations

Never abbreviate something that won’t easily be understood to readers; the purpose of abbreviations in journalistic writing is to make the reader’s job easier, not harder. For this reason, do not use excessive acronyms, or as the AP Stylebook says it, “avoid alphabet soup.”

States

When a state is used alone in a sentence, spell it out, but if a state is used with a city, follow these abbreviations (Note that some states are never abbreviated):

  • Alabama — Ala.
  • Alaska — Alaska
  • Arizona — Ariz.
  • Arkansas — Ark.
  • California — Calif.
  • Colorado — Colo.
  • Connecticut — Conn.
  • Delaware — Del.
  • D.C. — District of Columbia
  • Florida — Fla.
  • Georgia — Ga.
  • Hawaii — Hawaii
  • Idaho — Idaho
  • Illinois — Ill.
  • Indiana — Ind.
  • Iowa — Iowa
  • Kansas — Kan.
  • Kentucky — Ky.
  • Louisiana — La.
  • Maine — Maine
  • Maryland — Md.
  • Massachusetts — Mass.
  • Michigan — Mich.
  • Minnesota — Minn.
  • Mississippi — Miss.
  • Missouri — Mo.
  • Montana — Mont.
  • Nebraska — Neb.
  • Nevada — Nev.
  • New Hampshire — N.H.
  • New Jersey — N.J.
  • New Mexico — N.M.
  • New York — N.Y.
  • North Carolina — N.C.
  • North Dakota — N.D.
  • Ohio — Ohio
  • Oklahoma — Okla.
  • Oregon — Ore.
  • Pennsylvania — Pa.
  • Rhode Island — R.I.
  • South Carolina — S.C.
  • South Dakota — S.D.
  • Tennessee — Tenn.
  • Texas — Texas
  • Utah — Utah
  • Vermont — Vt.
  • Virginia — Va.
  • Washington — Wash.
  • West Virginia — W. Va.
  • Wisconsin — Wis.
  • Wyoming — Wyo.

Dates

Spell out months when used alone or with either a date or year but abbreviate them to the following when used with a date and year. All months with five letters or less are never abbreviated. Never abbreviate days of the week.

  • January — Jan.
  • February — Feb.
  • March — March
  • April — April
  • May — May
  • June — June
  • July — July
  • August — Aug.
  • September — Sept.
  • October — Oct.
  • November — Nov.
  • December — Dec.

Examples of dates:

  • Brooks went missing on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2001.
  • The game will be held in mid-October.
  • The results were posted Saturday, December 5.

Before or After a Name

Certain titles may be abbreviated only when used before a person’s full name:

  • Doctor — Dr.
  • Governor — Gov.
  • Lieutenant Governor — Lt. Gov.
  • Mister (formerly master) — Mr.
  • Miss –Ms.
  • Mistress — Mrs.
  • Representative — Rep.
  • The Reverend — The Rev.
  • Senator — Sen.

See the AP Stylebook for more military titles. Also note that Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr. are rarely used in articles. When using the title “Reverend,” the word “the” should always precede it.

Also, a few abbreviations are acceptable following an individual’s or a company’s name:

  • Junior — Jr.
  • Senior — Sr.
  • Company — Co.
  • Incorporated — Inc.
  • Corporation — Corp.

Although there are exceptions to each abbreviation depending on the situation, the one rule that is important to remember when deciding on whether or not to use abbreviations when writing in AP style is to avoid confusion. The purpose for abbreviations in journalistic writing is to simplify, not complicate.

Any abbreviation that would be cumbersome or awkward in writing should be spelled out as well as any acronym that would not be recognized on second reference without parentheses, meaning “The Associated Press (AP) style is used by newspapers across America,” should be written either “The AP style is used by newspapers across America,” or if confusion is possible, “The Associated Press style is used by newspapers across America.”

If you are unsure as to whether readers will or will not understand an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out. Always refer to the latest copy of the AP Stylebook for rules and exceptions to any abbreviation or acronym.

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