Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why I Hate Postal Abbreviations

Blue and yellow Minnesota route sign with large white MN on a blue fieldOne of my pet peeves is when people use the two-letter, all-caps abbreviation for a state in the midst of a normal sentence.

People in Minnesota seem to be particularly fond of this shorthand. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen MN used inappropriately, I could afford to fund my own chapter of Cranky Grammarians Anonymous.

Do people in other states do this just as much? Let's see. "We're waiting for the results of the IA caucuses." "What the matter with KS?" "I wish they all could be CA girls." Hmm. Maybe not.

I have no problem with postal abbreviations as part of a mailing address, but when they're used in place of a proper noun in a sentence, I confess I can be left a few letters short of a full alphabet.

Why does it bother me so much?

First, words generally shouldn't be abbreviated in normal writing. This isn't text messaging I'm talking about -- it's full sentences in newsletters, reports or websites. Just as you wouldn't abbreviate any other word in the paragraph, you shouldn't abbreviate the states' names.

Second, even when it's acceptable to abbreviate a state's name (such as when it is used as a brief identifier linked with a city), you shouldn't use the postal abbreviation, but rather the abbreviation that was in use before the postal service came up with the two-letter codes. Why? Because having those two capital letters in a row looks bad, that's why: Minneapolis, Minn. vs. Minneapolis, MN. Blocks of copy that are strewn with multiple capital letter pairs suffer from uneven typographic "color" -- each one of those MNs pops out of the background and subconsciously distracts the reader.

Third, I think this need to abbreviate represents the increasing rush rush rush of our society. Slow down! Take a second to spell out the name. You don't live in MN, you live in Minnesota -- all four syllables of it.


David Steinlicht said...

Plus, it's just difficult to decipher MN. It looks a lot like like NM, not to mention MA and ME and MI.

Also annoying? The airport abbreviation MSP entering normal usage. I'm talking about the "More to life" campaign.

Daughter Number Three said...

Even the shapes of the two letters are hard to differentiate, I agree -- all those verticals and angles going in the same directions.

Moncrief Speaks said...

Amen! I'm so glad I'm not the only one. Sing it, sister!