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.

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    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.
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:28
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    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
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:33
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    One does not write “Chicago, United States”; one writes “Chicago, Illinois”.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:41
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    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. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 14:19
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    Do not write "United States, Illinois" ... the other one is better, "Illinois, United States".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 15:21

4 Answers 4


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.

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    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. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:39
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    @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
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:53
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    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. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 13:57
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    @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.
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 14:29
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    @J.R. Like Washington, DC or San Juan, PR or Charlotte Amalie, VI.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 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).

  • 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
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 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
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 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.


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.

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