"At" or "In"

I vaguely recollect from my early school days that when stating where a meeting will be held, “at” is used if referring to a general location, like a city, and “in” is used when referring to a specific location, like “in the Federal Building.” I need confirmation of this since in my work I run across the phrase “in Charleston,” and the like, which I think is wrong.

I cannot think of any situation in which I would use the construction “the meeting will be held at Charleston.” I would always say “in Charleston.” “At 3:00,” maybe, but never “at Charleston.”

To my ears, that sounds like somebody who is just learning the language and has their prepositions confused. I have never heard “at” used with a place in that context. “He’s at home” is OK or “The game will be played at Turner Field,” but not the construction you gave.

I know just enough about linguistics to know that this could be a regional dialect thing (for instance, the expression “wait on line” is ungrammatical in my regional dialect), but that’s my $0.02.

“In Charleston” and “in Virginia” are correct. I think either “at” or “in” is correct for buildings (“at the Science Center,” or “in the Federal Building”). “At” is correct for addresses (“at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”).

Don’t have my style books with me for cites, but “at Charleston” is not incorrect, but it may be a little old fashioned, and maybe even (could be wrong here) a little British.

Note that most Universities use that construction: University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana, etc.

This phrase is almost always the introduction to some nonsensical “rule” that has no application to the English language. I don’t know why; surely teachers teach some accurate information. Or maybe it’s just that people say this when the inaccuracy they were taught was challenged.

I don’t have Quirk and Greenbaum handy, but I’m sure that there’s no hard-and-fast rule about the use of “at” and “in” in this context. Usually a meeting is held “in” a city and “at” an address. “In” may be used for a building, but probably less often (since it’s obvious that the meeting will usuall be held inside the building at a partucular location).

Thanks to all. It’s unanimous then. I’ve been under a misapprehension all these years. Especially when RealityChuck, a science fiction writer, concurs with the rest of you guys (now I have to say "y’ll since I moved south).

It’s certainly not British (she says, speaking for the whole of the British populatin & preparing to be lynched later for arrogance…) - we would use in Birmingham, in London, at the Hilton Hotel in London etc

The University of Wisconsin doesn’t even use “at”; we prefer hyphenation: University of Wisconsin - Madison, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, etc.

Ever look at a sports schedule? City names are refered to with “at” when they are symbolic of the team, while “in” is used in other cases: The Brewers are playing at St. Louis; the U.S. Olympic team is competing in Sydney.

I see the “at” construction used when describing historical events:

Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta
The Union and Confederate forces clashed at Gettysburg
Ivan lost his leg at Stalingrad

It seems to me that “at” can be used when the name of the place itself carries a meaning beyond its name. In other words, it is a short way of saying:

Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at [the] Yalta [summit]
The Union and Confederate forces clashed at [the battle of] Gettysburg
Ivan lost his leg at [the battle of] Stalingrad

I think you can also use “at” in the context of giving directions and geographic descriptions:

Route 6 ends at Bishop.
I crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.

I stand corrected. This construction is entirely within my dialect, as testified to by the fact that I hear Don Sutton use it at least 200 times a week. Thanks, KeithT.