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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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July 06, 2011



Those potential customers should have paid attention in geography class.

Cookie Biggs,

I'm with you strongly on this one, Lynn. Most print journalists will be, as you pointed out.

Other abbreviations: Without an AP Stylebook in front of me, I can't confirm this, but I generally abbreviate "road" and "street" only when the address is complete with street number: 123 Green St., Philadelphia, or Green Street, Philadelphia.

Does the US Postal Service still advocate for mailing addresses on envelopes to leave off the comma between the city and state?
Joe Smith
123 Green St.
Philadelphia PA 19103

And what do you think of "Bucks and Chester counties" versus "Bucks and Chester Counties"?

I really appreciate your posts, Lynn -- especially when we agree!


Whoops! You caught me with my OCD showing. I memorized all of the two-letter state and province codes so long ago, I don't even think about it. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll have to keep it more in mind.

I've actually encountered something similar in editing for a chemical engineer - he reads the periodic symbols as words, something difficult to manage if you haven't memorized the periodic table!


i'm in agreement with Karla. We learned these in school, right?


Word/content space (whether in an e-mail, poster, advertisement or billboard) is valuable - generally too valuable to take up with spelling out a state. I also agree with Karla as along as we are talking about a promotional or advertisement piece AND the target audience is in the U.S. With that said, if I am writing a traditional business letter, then I will follow Gregg guidelines. BTW - USPS doesn't like ANY punctuation as it is hard for their computers to read for the automatic sorting (it's not a "style" issue for them). It's also easier for their sorting machines to read in all CAPS (at least that is what I read a couple of years ago).


I memorized the two letter state abbreviations while working for a mail order company years ago. I recognize that not everyone knows these codes. The post office also prefers the following abbreviations be used with no punctuation:

AVE - Avenue
ST - Street
CT - Court
BLVD - Boulevard
CIR - Circle
FWY - Freeway
STE - Suite
APT - Apartment

In fact, the USPS has a list of Official USPS Abbreviations on their website at:

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Karla, Cookie, Grapholalia, C.R., Jennifer, and Stephanie. Thank you for your insights.

Karla and C.R., I find it helpful to consider what my readers do know rather than what they should know. My principle for all business writing is to give readers what they need. If I think some of them may not know an abbreviation, I am going to spell it despite space limitations.

Cookie, AP does agree with your rule of abbreviating "Street" only in a complete address. It agrees with your rendering of "counties" too. Good memory!

Grapholalia, I loved your example of the chemical engineer and the periodic table.

Jennifer and Stephanie, you might be interested in my test on how to address an envelope. It's here on the blog at (If you can't click the link, just search this site for "address an envelope.") The US Post Office is more flexible than we think, at least for regular mail.

Thanks to all for enriching the discussion.



This situation came up recently at my work. Our style in the past was to abbreviate New Mexico as N. Mex. The request to change it to N.M. was met with great resistance by my co-workers. My thought was clearly it should be NM, the government postal abbreviation ( but I am new and not in an editorial position). In the end the text was re-worded so that the full "New Mexico" would fit.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Trevor, thanks for sharing your example.


Lesley from lesley writes

Lynn, thanks for making this point. I am surprised to learn that those who comment on your blog think these abbrevations are taught at school; let me try you with some I learned.


These are abbreviations for English counties, and are usually used in addresses sent to the UK. The first, for example, is the usual postal abbreviation for Berkshire.

Oddly enough the rest of the world does not learn these, just as those outside the USA do not learn the abbreviations for American states. As an immigrant to the USA, I think it is my duty to learn these abbreviations and I am working on it because two years ago I chose to make the USA my home, but to simply believe that the rest of the world learns these at school, seems strange. The world is a big place and many companies are international. Surely it is important to know how to address a worldwide audience?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Lesley. Thank your for your abbreviated examples (none of which I recognized!).

I appreciate your important point about our global village.


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