This week, I was surprised to learn something I should have known for two years. Thanks, Ken Harty!
The Wick group publisher was kind enough to ask me to edit his bio for the company website and then had to tell me that I screwed up by abbreviating North Carolina, Minnesota and all the other states where he has worked. Wait, what? You can’t abbreviate state names any more?
Ken was right, of course. AP changed its guidance on state names in body copy on May 1, 2014. Two years ago! Where have I been?
The reason for the change wasn’t immediately apparent to me. It seems like Fla. Is shorter than Florida and brevity is the soul of wit, is it not? Well, it turns out AP was bowing to people who just don’t know that Wis. is Wisconsin and so forth. That is particularly true now that people all across the world have access to our journalism. AP is still recommending abbreviating state names in datelines, lists and agate and so forth.
Oh. That makes sense… Or does it?
Look, nothing the AP says is written in stone. As Gerri Berendzen reminded us way back when the change took place, we are all free to continue with our antiquated abbreviations.
In fact, that is the suggestion of Half Moon Bay’s copy editor, Julie Gerth. She notes that the readers we care about – local readers who patronize our advertisers — know that Ariz. means Arizona and so on. And it’s just too much to spell out South Carolina and South Dakota in obits and elsewhere. Furthermore, many news agencies are ignoring the AP guidance as far as we can tell. The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, to name just two, are continuing to use abbreviated state names.
So, for the time being, we at the Half Moon Bay Review are, too. I think you can go either way. All I ask is that you be consistent. In the vast majority of cases, I bow to AP. This may be one of the outliers.