English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd like to write where someone is from, on a website with an international context. The objective is to balance style, brevity and correctness. I only need country-level resolution, so if someone is from Berlin, I plan on writing Germany, whereas if they're from Sydney, I plan on writing Australia.

I suspect that the USA should be an exception here, as I often heard people from the States feel very much associated with their state (I heard a lot more Chicago, Illinois than, say, Sydney, New South Wales).

Does this sound like a reasonable assumption? How should I write the state/country pair in this case? Illinois, United States? United States, Illinois? Something else altogether?

Edit: another small tidbit, the lion's share of the target audience is in the teenager/young adult age range.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Robusto, Lynn, MετάEd, Bill Franke, Kris Dec 27 '12 at 6:42

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I can't speak for all 300 million of us, but, if the rest of the site is broken down at a national level, I see no reason to make an exception for those in the U.S. – J.R. Dec 26 '12 at 13:28
You can do it by country (just USA), by state (but not for me), or maybe region: West Coast, East Coast Southwest, Bible Belt, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Alaska, Hawaii. J.R. has a point, though: There's no need to coddle provincial Americans unless one of 'em makes you an offer that you cannot refuse. – user21497 Dec 26 '12 at 13:33
One does not write “Chicago, United States”; one writes “Chicago, Illinois”. – tchrist Dec 26 '12 at 13:41
Why would it be an exception? Australia is divided by States, why differentiate the USA in this way? You're being inconsistent. You ideally need to define what it is you want to do and then perhaps formulate the correct way of doing it. – spiceyokooko Dec 26 '12 at 14:19
Do not write "United States, Illinois" ... the other one is better, "Illinois, United States". – GEdgar Dec 26 '12 at 15:21
up vote 4 down vote accepted

In the US we usually write Berkeley, CA, which is the name of the city followed by state. That said, if you were treating people on a country level, simply writing the US or USA would suffice.

share|improve this answer
I'll clarify: I definitely want country and I'm thinking if states should be included. Maybe never, maybe just for the US, maybe for any place that has states (hrmf, probably not). Anyway, thanks for the answer, I'll wait a bit to see if more answers crop up. – Yaniv Aknin Dec 26 '12 at 13:39
@YanivAknin If you do not include the state, you will not know what particular city of that name which they are in, because city names repeat in different states. Consider Portland or Springfield. – tchrist Dec 26 '12 at 13:53
I'll further clarify: At this time, I can't add the city, period. It will be either country or country+state, but city is out of the question for now. – Yaniv Aknin Dec 26 '12 at 13:57
@Yaniv: Something else you might want to consider: if you decide to open it up to country+state, you open up a can of worms from a design perspective. (One can live in the United States without living in one of the 50 states). – J.R. Dec 26 '12 at 14:29
@J.R. Like Washington, DC or San Juan, PR or Charlotte Amalie, VI. – tchrist Dec 26 '12 at 15:11

The customary format would be to include city name and two-letter state abbreviation (e.g. Seattle, WA, USA). Showing the full state name acceptable, but not necessary.

Only including the state (e.g. Washington, USA) can be ambiguous and vastly imprecise (California and Texas are larger than most countries). Some publications (The Economist magazine) use this, but it seems highbrow, unusual and weird to a teenage audience. It would look wrong next to city-state pairs from other countries (e.g. Berlin, Germany).

Only listing the city is ambiguous, as city names repeat often in the USA (there are 28 Springfields).

share|improve this answer
I’ve certainly known teenagers who were highbrow, unusual, and weird, and sometimes more than one of those at the same time. I cannot possibly imagine who this would “look weird” to teenagers. – tchrist Dec 26 '12 at 17:09
@tchrist Teenagers tend to be a remarkably conformist bunch, even (or perhaps especially) in their non-conformity ("rebel" against society, but still a follower within a subculture). – dbkk Dec 26 '12 at 17:17

If you're using "country-level resolution" for other countries, doing the same for the US is reasonable and consistent. As I understand it, you wouldn't say someone is from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, or Manitoba, Canada, so there's no reason to refer to Illinois, United States. The USA is a very mobile country, so identifying someone with a state is problematic. It's not unusual for someone to have grown up in Connecticut, gone to college in Massachusetts, and worked in Maryland. Would you cite them by place of birth, place where they've spent most of their time, place of current residence, or something else? That can of worms is better left unopened.

share|improve this answer

You have to remember that there are several towns and cities in the US for which there is another town or city of the same name in another state.

There are also a very large number of towns and cities in the US for which there is another, often better known, town or city with the same name somewhere else (mainly, but not solely, in Europe).

This doesn't only apply to the United States (e.g. as well as the various places called San Jose and/or San José in the US, there are dozens around the world), it is common enough there that a general habit of giving the state along with the city or town is common.

In the use you are making of it though, country would probably suffice unless you've a good reason to be more precise.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.