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Cardinal directions

Lowercase north, south, east, and west when referring to directions.

  • "UMass Amherst is in western Massachusetts."
  • "Austria is east of France."
  • "She is traveling to the northern part of Vermont."

However, capitalize north, south, east, and west when referring to specific regions or cultures.

  • "He is originally from the West Coast."
  • "They are studying Eastern philosophy."
  • "We love Southern comfort foods like shrimp and grits and biscuits and gravy."

“Southern” is always capitalized when referring to Southern California.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the commonwealth
Capitalized when using formal name of "Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Lowercase "commonwealth" in running text.

  • "The university is not only a top-tier research institution in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but also throughout New England."
  • "UMass Amherst is a university for the commonwealth."

U.S. state names and U.S. territories

In running text, use the postal code abbreviations for states when they appear with a city or town; spell the state in full when mentioned without a corresponding city or town.

  • "He went to school in Tampa, FL, and now lives in Massachusetts."
  • "The company is based in Newark, NJ."

Note: U.S. state names containing up to six letters are never abbreviated in running text (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah).

U.S. States and Territories  Postal Code Editorial Abbreviations
Alabama AL Ala. 
Alaska AK Alaska
American Samoa  AS American Samoa
Arizona AZ Ariz.
Arkansas AK Ark.
California  CA Calif.
Colorado  CO Colo.
Connecticut  CT Conn.
Delaware DE Del.
District of Columbia DC D.C.
Federated States of Micronesia FM Federated States of Micronesia 
Florida  FL Fla.
Georgia GA Ga.
Guam GU Guam
Hawaii HI Hawaii
Idaho ID Idaho
Illinois IL Ill.
Indiana IN Ind.
Iowa IA Iowa
Kansas KS Kans.
Kentucky KY Ky.
Louisiana LA La.
Maine ME Maine
Marshall Islands MH Marshall Islands
Maryland MD Md.
Massachusetts MA Mass.
Michigan MI Mich.
Minnesota MN Minn.
Mississippi MS Miss.
Missouri MO Mo.
Montana MT Mont.
Nebraska NE Nebr.
Nevada NV Nev.
New Hampshire NH N.H.
New Jersey NJ N.J.
New Mexico NM N.M.
New York NY N.Y.
North Carolina NC N.C.
North Dakota ND N.D.
Northern Mariana Island MP Northern Mariana Island
Ohio OH Ohio
Oklahoma OK Okla.
Oregon OR Ore.
Pennsylvania PA Pa.
Puerto Rico PR P.R.
Palau PW Palau
Rhode Island RI R.I.
South Carolina SC S.C.
South Dakota SD S.D.
Tennessee TN Tenn.
Texas TX Texas
Utah UT Utah
Vermont VT Vt.
Virgin Islands VI V.I.
Virginia VA Va.
Washington WA Wash.
West Virginia WV W.Va.
Wisconsin WI Wis.
Wyoming WY Wyo.


Well-known American and international cities do not require accompanying state or country.

  • "Professor Quinn is attending a conference in Paris this year."
    (Not "... a conference in Paris, France, this year.")
  • "All scholarship recipients will have an opportunity to study abroad in London."
    (Not "... to study abroad in London, England.")
  • "The art exhibit is transferring from Los Angeles to New Orleans."

Less-widely known cities or towns include accompanying U.S. state or country.

  • "The bulk of his research took place in Burlington, VT, during the summer."
  • "Furano, Japan, is famous for its lavender fields."

United States—spell out when used as a noun in first mention; use "U.S." as an adjective.

  • "... China's involvement with the United States."
  • "U.S. involvement in overseas diplomacy ..."
  • "She paid in U.S. dollars despite the unfavorable rate exchange."