While the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why) are important for every story, the first you should worry about when writing a story is the “where.” The AP Stylebook contains quite a few rules for both datelines and location names, and though many of them have been mentioned in past posts, AP has changed some of the rules in recent years, so we thought a refresher might be in order.

Ready? Let’s go!

Datelines on stories should contain a city name, entirely in capital letters, followed in most cases by the abbreviated name of the state, county or territory where the city is located (except in the case of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah).

Some cities stand alone in datelines, we have a list of domestic cities here and international cities here.

Stories from all other U.S. cities should have both the city and state name in the dateline, including “KANSAS CITY, Mo.,” and “KANSAS CITY, Kan.”

Keep in mind that AP changed the rules for using state abbreviations in the body of a story, and you now spell out the names of all 50 U.S. states when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.

No state name is necessary if it’s the same as the dateline. The same applies to newspapers cited in a story.

 

Use Hawaii on all cities outside Honolulu. You should specify the island in the text if you need to.

Follow the same practice for communities on islands within the boundaries of other states: “EDGARTOWN, Mass.,” for example, not “EDGARTOWN, Martha’s Vineyard.”

 

Use “BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.”

It’s an incorporated city and the dateline for the Golden Globes movie awards, sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

 

Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: “She was traveling from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Austin, Texas, on the way to her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines if possible.

Bonus: When referencing the Empire State, use “New York state” when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.

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