Ask the Editor
How should you write it: United States, U.S., or US?
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
When to use "US" and when to use "U.S."? – Mianxiu, China
This is an excellent question and a hard one to answer, because the rules are changing all the time. You will see examples of this abbreviation written both ways, with periods (U.S.), and without (US). To make matters worse, some well-respected style guides recommend the first style, and others prefer the second. Finally, the choice partly depends on whether U.S. is functioning as a noun or as an adjective.
Here is my advice:
1. In formal writing, spell out the two words as “United States,” as in the example below. This is always appropriate.
2. In informal writing, when the abbreviation is functioning as an adjective (as in, “U.S. Senator”), there seems to be a slight preference among native speakers and editors for the abbreviation with periods (U.S.), as shown below, so I recommend using that style.
3. In casual writing, when United States is functioning as a noun (as in, “We are traveling to the U.S.”), it’s a matter of personal preference. You can either spell out United States or abbreviate it, with periods or without. In other words, all three of the examples below are correct, and you can choose the style that you like best. Just be consistent.
I hope this helps.