North, South, West, east … Capitalizing can Be a Beast

posted by Terri Porter Apr 23, 2015 6:00:00 pm

Feeling lo

st? Rudderless? Unsure which means to turn? Unfortunately, us can’t assist you discover your way. Us are, after all, a proofreading site. However … we can offer some direction on direction — specifically, whether to capitalize them.

You are watching: Is north south east and west capitalized

At the most simple level, the traditional advice is to small letter north, south, east and also west when offered as compass directions and also to capitalize them as soon as they are used as part of a appropriate noun or adjective or refer to regions or geographic areas. So:

North Carolina is north of south Carolina and east the West Virginia.The Rocky mountains are west that Denver.The East coastline was slammed with another storm yesterday.They desire to pensioner in the Southwest in a couple of years.

Easy enough to remember, right? The tricky component is how to navigate connected words such as northern, southern, eastern and also western. We can tell you come look that up, but the rule in the go-to general format guides — AP Stylebook and also Chicago hands-on of Style (CMOS) — conflict in part instances.

AP capitalizes this terms when they describe a region or the civilization from the region, yet not recommendations to part of a region. CMOS, ~ above the various other hand, says to capitalize such terms only once they refer to places, no to human being from those places … except in particular instances. This is what we end up with:

Southern accentsouthern* accent
northern Plainsnorthern plains
Western stateswestern states

*CMOS would capitalize Southern and also Southerner just in American Civil battle contexts.

To make matters worse, both style guides say come capitalize references to well-recognized or famous places (e.g., south Side the Chicago, north Ireland, south east Asia). The difficulty is, what constitutes “well-recognized or popular” past widely known instances such as these?

For instance, should “southern California” it is in lowercase? until its 16th edition, CMOS thought so. And if you nothing live in the area, would certainly you acknowledge “South Texas” as a popular description of the region around san Antonio?

No wonder directions are so confusing. Prevent the car! If your existing map no cutting that — or Siri is taking you on the scenic route as soon as you specifically told she “get me there, stat!” — that time because that some new navigation. In this case, us at like to count on the straightforward technique in the Gregg reference Manual.

In short, it states to capitalize northern, southern, eastern, western and also related words when they describe the world in a an ar or what they do (i.e., their political, cultural or society activities) or are component of the ar name. Nothing capitalize these words once they refer to the general location, geography or climate that a region.

Snowbirds from the northern states invest their winter in the Southwest .The Mid-Atlantic claims were the swing vote in the last election .The mid-Atlantic states had record snowfalls this year .The Northwest gets a the majority of rain .The northwestern states acquire a lot of rain .Southern interval northern levels The Midwest region’s sales numbers are down this year .Northern Ireland , but northern MontanaWestern Australia , but west Massachusetts

Regarding these last 2 examples, if you’re no sure around whether a particular region should be capitalized, look it up. Well-recognized areas are normally described thus online. Also, let paper definition be your guide. If you’re composing an article around economic development in east Michigan, you may want come capitalize Eastern, but a passing referral to the area in another context would certainly be lowercase due to the fact that the region isn’t known as such, unlike Southeast Michigan (also referred to as Southeastern Michigan).

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Because the the plenty of stylistic variations, coming up v one ideal answer for questions past those relating to compass directions or noticeable regions is difficult. Also CMOS hedges that is advice by saying, “Note that exceptions based on particular regional, politics or historical contexts space inevitable and that one author’s solid preference should usually be respected.”

The an essential here is come be continuous and, when appropriate, to let context guide you. And if you get lost follow me the way, don’t be afraid to stop and also ask for directions, either by posting your inquiry in the comments below or by asking our grammar experts.