City names

In a Charley Project case, whenever I refer to another city, I always include the state as well. Like: “John Smith was last seen in Venedocia, Ohio on January 7, 2013. He left home to drive to Delphos, Ohio, but never arrived.” It gets awkward sometimes, though, and I feel like I ought to be more flexible with this rule. But I’m not sure just HOW flexible.

Like, “So-and-so was driving from Miami, Florida en route to Boston, Massachusetts.” Everyone knows that Miami is in Florida and Boston is in Massachusetts.

But not literally EVERYONE knows this. I know the Charley Project has regular readers who don’t live in the United States and might not be familiar with U.S. geography. I mean, my country borders Canada and I’ve been to Canada a few times, but it would be difficult for me to name all its provinces, never mind its major cities. To say nothing of Mexico! (And for that matter, many people who actually live in the U.S. also know nothing about its geography. Sad.)

Furthermore, the names of major U.S. cities aren’t unique. There’s the huge city of Detroit, Michigan, famous for its role in the automotive industry. As Charley Project readers will discover when they check today’s updates, there’s also a Detroit, Oregon — although Wikipedia says it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it hamlet of 202 people, almost as small as the place where I born. (In fact, it was adding Mr. Moline’s casefile today that inspired me to write this post.) Des Moines, Iowa, is a city most people have heard of, but there’s also a Des Moines in Washington and it’s a proper town; almost 30,000 people live there. Brooklyn is a borough in New York City, and also a neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland.

(This caused confusion several years ago when they found an abandoned toddler and were trying to identify her. She said she was from Brooklyn and they thought she meant Brooklyn, New York. Turns out she meant Brooklyn, Baltimore. You’d think that, seeing as how she was found IN Baltimore, they’d have checked there first, but there you go. That kind of mistake is what I’m trying to prevent by always listing the state names even when it seems obvious.)

Anyway, when I say someone was going to Los Angeles or Philadelphia or whatever, it does seem kind of pedantic to list the state too, and I kick around the idea of changing the rule, but I haven’t done it yet. I’ve heard the Associated Press actually has a list of U.S. cities considered famous enough that they don’t have to tack on the state name when they’re mentioned in articles. Perhaps I should borrow that.

9 thoughts on “City names

  1. Jeannee January 7, 2013 / 2:53 pm

    And did we even think about – Brooklin is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States. The population was 824 … Here’s another concern with this, especially I’m thinking w/ older cases but possibly involving unincorporated areas, for example: as a child of the 60s-70s-80s, I grew up in Edison, NJ … however … pre-1954, it was known as Raritan Township, when it was almost all farming. Of course, too, there are even other place names in NJ with the name Raritan in them, including rivers, streets, et al …

  2. Kat January 7, 2013 / 2:57 pm

    Maybe you should borrow the rule, but wouldn’t that require another link on the blog or something? That people wouldn’t check and then email you about? I don’t know. I say keep the state names in there, myself. But that is just me.

  3. Elin January 7, 2013 / 3:38 pm

    I am one of your non-American readers here and I would say that for me it would not be a problem if you just wrote Boston or Los Angeles, the important thing is that you write the state for towns that can be found in different states and for small town which no one knows where they are but the ones who live there. I think you should go for simplyfing your system.

  4. Michele January 7, 2013 / 6:40 pm

    I happen to have a 2011 AP Stylebook handy. The following American cities do not require a state name to follow: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington.

    When referring to alternate cities with the same name (such as Las Vegas or Detroit), you would list the state afterward, using the proper A.P. state abbreviation, such as Las Vegas, N.M. or Detroit, Ore. States with short names, such as Utah, Ohio, and Hawaii are spelled out in their entirety after a city name.

  5. Kb January 7, 2013 / 10:48 pm

    I like the way you do it now. It just seems more accurate, to me.

  6. Armando A. Cardona January 8, 2013 / 11:12 am

    I think you should keep it as accurate and detailed as you can, given the nature of the site AND believe it or not there are many, many places with the exact same name all over the U.S. Case in point, if you write “Philadelphia” 99% of the people would automatically assume “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” but “Philadelphia, Mississippi” is a sizable urban center in its own right. Plus there are at least 29 major towns named “Lincoln” in the U.S., plus many more counties, villages, etc. In short, strive for accuracy and completeness; it can’t hurt and the alternative can always cause confusion (slight chance but it’s there).

  7. Tracey Reitterer January 9, 2013 / 2:33 am

    I like the way you do it now, its more professional. I wish more journalists & bloggers would do this on their missing persons & human remains articles. I share them all on Facebook & find it very time consuming to have to research where these events happen before sharing them out. By the way, I live just a few miles from the Brooklyn neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland.

  8. Katja January 18, 2013 / 11:57 am

    I rather like having the state attached. It does seem more professional, as Tracey mentioned. With large cities, it may seem extraneous, but if nothing else, it is consistent, and less confusing.

    Kind of on the same note, apparently the postmaster of Moscow, Idaho named the town because the town needed a name that wasn’t “Hog Heaven”. Legend is that he named it Moscow because he had previously lived in Moscow, Pennsylvania. If that weren’t crazy enough, after he moved from Moscow, Idaho, he moved to Moscow, Iowa. 🙂

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