How to Write Addresses

One of the most common things I have to change in the articles I edit is the way addresses are written. Here's an example typical of the stuff that appears in the articles:

The museum is at 281 Maple Ln., Topeka, KN, 50022.

There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s almost no wrong way to write an address. And, of course, getting it right is much more important than making it pretty. But the way that the AP and Chicago style manuals tell editors to write them can be beneficial to many writers, especially bloggers, who want to go easy on their readers’ eyes and don’t have an editor to help them.

The most important thing, of course, is consistency. An article or blog entry that changes its address style from one sentence to the next isn’t doing the reader any favors. It's jarring and can detract from the information.

“The museum, located at 9120 Third Street, moved from its former location at 9128 43rd Terr. in order to be closer to its corporate offices at Three 82nd St.”

So here are two simple approaches, based on the two major editing styles, that can make your addresses more flowing and integrated into a larger message.

Many newspaper styles say to use numerals for everything in an address -- even numbers less than 10. They abbreviate only “Street,” “Avenue,” and “Boulevard," making them “St.,” “Ave.,” and “Blvd.” But they only abbreviate these terms when they appear with an exact street address. If the street name stands alone, the street name shouldn’t be abbreviated. So, according to this style, you’d write:

The museum is at 281 3rd St., at the corner of 3rd Street and Wilshire Boulevard.

Newspapers don’t use postal codes for states. They use abbreviations. California, when part of an address, is not “CA” but “Calif.” A complete list of these abbreviations is in the AP style guide. But most of them are pretty intuitive. Kansas is Kan., while Iowa is already short enough, so it’s just written Iowa. If you want to mirror newspaper style, avoid those two-letter postal abbreviations. On the other hand, if you like the handy two-letter versions better, you can make that call for your own website or blog.

Also, many newspapers don’t include the state for any address in the state the newspaper covers. So, for example, in the Los Angeles Times, cities mentioned are always considered to be within California unless expressly stated otherwise. "They visited Fresno; Eureka; Eugene, Ore.; and Spokane, Wash."

Book and magazine styles don’t like abbreviating street names. They usually spell out Boulevard regardless of whether it appears in “100 Wilshire Boulevard” or just plain old “Wilshire Boulevard.”

And no styles I know of ever abbreviate Drive, Circle, Terrace, Way, or Place.

So if you want an easy-to-remember and easy-to-read style, just either spell out every street name or spell out all but Ave., St., and Blvd. appearing with street numbers, use numerals for all numbers, and only include states when they're not obvious.

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2 Responses to “How to Write Addresses”

  1. Is it correct to say between 10th and 11th Avenue or Avenues?
    Thank you,
    Susan

  2. Susan: Short answer: there is no right way. Long answer: some ways are better than others.

    Re capitalization: Traditionally, most publishing would have written that "10th and 11th avenues," with a lowercase A. The idea is that, in its plural form, it's no longer part of a proper name. It's just a generic word, as in "walking down the avenues." However, Chicago Style has mixed that rule up a bit so that some users might write 10th and 11th Avenues with a capital A.

    Re plural vs. singular: That's up to you. We can talk about 10th Avenue by giving it a nickname, "10th" (as in, "I parked on 10th, near the Starbucks." So when you say "between 10th and 11th Avenue," you mean "between 11th Avenue and 10th." That seems a bit of a stretch, though. I think the more common interpretation is that the word "avenue" is shared. In that case, you're talking about two different avenues, which would favor the plural.

    Me, I'd follow the style common in news editing to make it "between 10th and 11th avenues."