An Associated Press story this week contained the odd description “southwestern Midwest.”
I say “odd” because the Midwest itself lacks a firm description. In an unscientific poll in the spring, FiveThirtyEight asked people who considered themselves Midwesterners to identify which states they thought were part of the Midwest. Their responses ranged from Pennsylvania on the east to Montana on the west to Oklahoma on the south. Illinois, Ohio and Indiana got the most votes, followed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri and Kansas.
(If you are feeling the need to explore the idea of further, Vox gathered more than 40 maps and charts to help explain the concept of the Midwest.)
Given the fluid definition, the southwestern Midwest could refer to Colorado and Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma, or perhaps Illinois. It all depends on where you live and how you perceive the Midwest.
AP relies on the census definition, which further confuses the issue by breaking the Midwest into two parts: the East North Central (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) and the West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota).
So the southwestern Midwest could be either the southwest East North Central or the southwest West North Central, descriptions that offer all the clarity (at least to the untrained) as official land descriptions: the southwest corner of the southwest quarter of section 3 of township 15 south, range 21 of the east prime meridian.
Clouding the matter even further, the AP writer seemed to include Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas in the definition of southwestern Midwest.
My advice: Skip the descriptors and just name the states. That way no one has to guess.