Where did two-letter postal abbreviations come from? | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

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Where did two-letter postal abbreviations come from?

The Straight Dope mails in this week's column.

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DAVID GOLDMAN/AP
  • 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.


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