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When Should We Capitalize States? Rules To Follow

When Should We Capitalize States? Rules To Follow

The debate of when to capitalize states has been around for years. There are some set rules that we all know, but there are also a few gray areas that bring about confusion in punctuation and grammar. The main question is: when should we capitalize states? And what are the rules for capitalizing states?

We capitalize the names of states when we write them as part of a sentence, when specifying a particular location, or when the state name has a specific direction. For example, “I’m from North Carolina.” However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Let us now discuss more on when to capitalize state names and provide you with some easy-to-follow rules and tips to always keep in mind. Are you ready? Let’s get straight into it!

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Rules for Capitalizing the States

The American state names should always be capitalized when they are in abbreviations, part of a title, when used as proper nouns, and so on. Let’s have a look at five rules when capitalizing states.

In Abbreviations

The first rule for capitalizing states is writing a particular state in abbreviations. For example: “I met Myron from NJ earlier today at the local hotel .” The state abbreviation here is ‘NJ,’ which stands for New Jersey.

Most people choose abbreviations when writing not-so-formal contexts or when in doubt about the complete spelling of the state name. When a state appears many times in a text, article, or story, abbreviations come in handy because the reader already knows what the writer is referring to.

When the State Indicates a Direction/Location

A state represents people who live there, and in most cases, some state names have directions attached. That requires you to capitalize both the direction and the state.

For example: “I’m going to West Virginia this weekend .” There is an actual direction, ‘West’ in front of the word ‘Virginia,’ and both start with a capital letter. This is one of the most common rules, but some people still make mistakes by writing the direction in small letters.

Again, when writing about any state with multiple current or historical locations that you need to distinguish or talk about at once, you must capitalize the states appropriately. For example, write “Most students live either in North Dakota or South Dakota” rather than “Most students live either in north Dakota or south Dakota.”

When the State is the First Word of a Sentence

English grammar capitalization rules require you to capitalize every first letter of the starting word in a sentence. That means that if any state appears as the first word in your sentence, capitalize it. For example: ” Massachusetts is bordered by Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the Atlantic Ocean.

When your sentence has ‘the’ before a state’s name or in a list of states, capitalization comes in handy. For example, “The Illinois portion of the Mississippi River runs through Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.”

When Representing Specific Places

The fourth rule for capitalizing American states is when representing specific places. For example: “My best friend lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida .” Fort Lauderdale is the actual place in the Florida region where the particular friend lives; it is capitalized because it represents a specific place.

When the State is Used As Part of a Proper Noun

When the state is used as a proper noun, embrace capitalization. For instance, Georgia is a proper noun because it’s specific to a particular place. So in a sentence, we can say that “I’m from Georgia.” Another example: “I’m going to visit the Ohio River .” Even though there isn’t a specific place to visit in ‘Ohio’ mentioned, you must capitalize it because ‘Ohio’ is part of the proper noun.

Exceptions for Capitalizing the States

Everyone is keen to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. Capitalization, however, can be confusing when it comes to national state names in English. Your home country’s name should be capitalized (e.g., America).

But what about American states? Are there any exceptions? Well, when mentioning the word “states” in generic conversations or engagements, you don’t need to capitalize it. For instance, “All the states are expected to comply with the new law in two weeks from now.”

The lowercase applies because the context of the statement is general. There is a plural aspect to show the message targets a larger audience. In informal conversations, especially on text messages or social media, users can choose to write states in any way. However, the primary rule is that states should start with upper cases across all forms of writing.

Some Edge Cases and More Alternative Rules When Capitalizing the States

Always capitalize states when you have them in titles and addresses. Capitalizing states shows respect for their authority and importance in our country. Let’s look at some more alternative rules when capitalizing states in your writings.

Capitalizing the States in Titles

It is essential to capitalize the name of American states when they are used in formal titles. For example, ” Every teacher needs to read the report on “The Georgia Board of Education Changes” to see how students are nowadays assessed.”

In the above sentence, the state appears in capital letters. When it comes to title capitalization, the first word of every sentence should be capitalized unless it is an article (a, an, the), preposition, or coordinating conjunction. The most common prepositions are “for,” “to,” and “with.” Coordinating conjunctions are words like “and,” “but,” or “or.”

Several different styles can be used to write a title. It is essential to know the rules of these styles if you want your writing to look professional. One of the most common styles is the APA format, created to be used in the social sciences and psychology fields.

It is important to know the rules of these styles if you want your writing to look professional. The most commonly used styles are APA and MLA formats.

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Capitalizing the States in Addresses

An address is the most formal way to refer to a particular location. Generally, addresses are written in Number Street, Number Avenue, City, or State. Some cases use postcodes instead of cities.

Should I capitalize my address? Not a must. It’s unnecessary to capitalize the street name, avenue, highway, road, etc. However, it’s always okay to capitalize the street name.

You also need to capitalize the name of a state when writing addresses. For example, “The check is made out to John Doe, who lives at 98 Fake St., Oklahoma City, OK 73109.”

10 Example Sentences with Correct Capitalization of States

It’s important to understand how to capitalize states when writing. There are specific rules for this, as explained earlier. If you’re still unsure how to do it, follow these ten example sentences.

  1. Pennsylvania, commonly known as the “Keystone State,” is located in the Northeastern region of the United States.
  2. Ohio is an exciting place, and don’t miss the Ohio Museum next time you visit.
  3. The Oklahoma River runs through the heart of Oklahoma City
  4. The northernmost portion of New York is Lake Champlain, which separates New York from Vermont.
  5. I love South Carolina, but I could never live there.
  6. Alabama borders Mississippi to the west, Tennessee to the north, Georgia and Florida to the east, and Louisiana to the south.
  7. “California NightLife” is one of the best books I have read this year.
  8. New York is surrounded by amazing architecture that you’ll never see anywhere else in the world.
  9. The States of New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine have the most proximal access to the Atlantic Ocean.
  10. The Atlanta Tourism Board needs immediate restructuring if the locals have to benefit directly.


Are you still confused about when to capitalize state names? Many people are unsure of the rules. Hopefully, this guide has cleared things up for you. With this guide, you can now capitalize states correctly. Remember always to check this style guide if you’re unsure about when to capitalize state names.