Although technology has made communicating with friends and family easier, there are still occasions where you may want to send a letter the old-fashioned way. To make sure your mail arrives at the correct destination in the United States, you'll need to use the appropriate U.S. state abbreviations. Check out a complete state abbreviations list, traditional abbreviations for each state and when you'd want to use either one.
These official state abbreviations have all been standardized by the United States Postal Service (USPS). State postal abbreviations are all two letters, and these two letters are always capitalized without any periods. There is also a list of traditional abbreviations used in other contexts. Note that with the traditional state abbreviations, the first letter is capitalized, subsequent letters are lowercase (unless they're abbreviating a new word) and each abbreviation (where the name is not written out in full) ends in a period.
Browse the list of all 50 U.S. state postal abbreviations as well as their traditional abbreviations. A printable list is provided below.
|State Name||USPS Abbreviation||Traditional Abbreviation|
|Nebraska||NE||Neb. or Nebr.|
|Oregon||OR||Ore. or Oreg.|
|Texas||TX||Tex. or Texas|
|Wisconsin||WI||Wis. or Wisc.|
Did you know? For the most part, these state abbreviations have stayed the same since 1963. One exception is Nebraska, which changed its abbreviation from NB to NE in 1967 to avoid confusion with the Canadian province New Brunswick.
If you want to keep a handy resource available for future use, you can download and print this list of USPS state abbreviations.
If you'd like a quick visual guide to remembering the state abbreviations, check out the map below. Download the map and you can write in the abbreviation on each state and then click on the checkmark to see if you're correct. Print the map for a handy reference sheet.
US State Abbreviations quizClick to View & Download
The United States has several territories outside of the 50 states in the union. These territories may not be official states, but they still adhere to the same formula of two capital letters for their official abbreviations.
|American Samoa||AS||Amer. Samoa|
|District of Columbia||DC||D.C.|
|Northern Mariana Islands||MP||M.P.|
These USPS postal abbreviations haven't been around forever. In fact, they've only existed since 1963, just four years after the 50th state (Hawaii) was added to the union. Before that, most states had three to five letters in their abbreviations, such as FLA for Florida and CALIF for California — similar to their traditional abbreviations.
However, on July 1, 1963, the Post Office Department began using five-digit zip codes. The addressing equipment at most post offices only allowed 23 characters, so they needed to shorten the state abbreviations in order to fit the zip codes. That's where the two-digit USPS state abbreviations began.
Here's when you should use USPS state abbreviations:
- when addressing a letter or item through the United States mail
- when writing bibliographies or tables in Chicago style
- in parentheses after writing the full name of a state
In other cases, you should use the traditional abbreviations, such as:
- when describing a person's political party affiliation (for example, D-Miss. or R-Mont.)
- when naming the location of a news story in the dateline of an article
- when naming states in a list or table in AP style
If the situation isn't listed here, you should use the entire capitalized state name. One example is when you're writing about a state in running text, such as "I went to Wyoming over the summer." Avoid either state or traditional abbreviations in headlines when possible.
So why is Tennessee abbreviated as TN instead of TE? Why is the abbreviation for Missouri MO when the word starts with "Mi?" Many postal abbreviations are from older sets of abbreviations, and they never repeat between states. Most state abbreviations follow a pattern for shortening state names.
You can follow these general patterns:
- All USPS and traditional abbreviations begin with the first letter of the state's name.
- The second letter of USPS abbreviations is found within the state's name (usually the second letter, but in some cases, further along in the word).
- If a state has two words in its name, its postal abbreviation uses the first letter of each word in its abbreviation (for example, NM for New Mexico and WV for West Virginia).
- Most traditional abbreviations use the first three, four or five letters of the state's name, such as Colorado (Colo.) or Nevada (Nev.)
However, there are a few states that break the rules or are especially confusing. Some of these states of confusion include:
- States with five or fewer letters are never abbreviated in traditional abbreviations. These states are Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
- Alaska and Hawaii are also never abbreviated in traditional abbreviations, although they are abbreviated in USPS abbreviations (AK and HI).
- Some states, such as Tennessee and Texas, begin with the same letters. Giving either state the abbreviation of TE would be confusing; therefore, Tennessee is TN and Texas is TX.
- Much of the confusion around state abbreviations comes from the eight states that begin with "M" (Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, and Montana). Of these states, only two follow the first-and-second-letter rule: Massachusetts (MA) and Michigan (MI).
- States that use the same letters in both USPS and traditional abbreviations are: Georgia (GA and Ga.), Kentucky (KY and Ky.), Louisiana (LA and La.), Maryland (MD and Md.), Missouri (MO and Mo.), Pennsylvania (PA and Pa.), Vermont (VT and Vt.), and Virginia (VA and Va.)
- States with two words in their names also share USPS and traditional abbreviations, with the exception of New Mexico (NM and N.Mex.), North Dakota (ND and N.Dak.), South Dakota (SD and S.Dak.), and West Virginia (WV and W.Va.)
When all else fails, come up with a memorable mnemonic to help you think of the correct codes. For example, Hawaiians are so friendly that they always say "HI!"
The United States is a fascinating and diverse country, with each state very different from the next. Take a tour around the different regions of the U.S. with several exciting and educational resources.
- Use a list of USPS street and building abbreviations for further postal reference.
- Check out some interesting facts about U.S. state capitals from all 50 states.
- Learn fun facts about Georgia that you may have not known before. And while you're learning about the South, you can find out all about Florida.
- From the South to the West. Have you ever wanted to know some amazing facts about Hawaii? Or what about these incredible facts about California?
- Take a look at the largest cities in the U.S. by state. See how they compare to the largest cities in the world.