Credit: David Goldman/AP

Dear Cecil:

Why oh why did the USPS decree a two-letter abbreviation for states? With three letters you can not only have an unambiguous designation, but one that can be recognized as the state designated without memorizing an arbitrary two-letter code. Surely it isn’t saving ink. What nefarious plot brought this plague upon us?

Richard Trombley

Cecil replies:

If you feel overwhelmed by two-letter state abbreviations, wait’ll you hear about 13-letter city abbreviations. I pray you never have to use it, Richard, but yes, the United States Postal Service publishes a list of approved city-name truncations, for those emergencies when you need to send something to Rancho Santa Margarita, California, but your address template permits only so many spaces.


Cecil Adams is the world’s most intelligent human being. We know this because: (1) he knows everything, and (2) he is never wrong. For more, see The Straight Dope website and FAQ.