North, South, West, east … Capitalizing have the right to Be a Beast

post by Terri Porter Apr 23, 2015 6:00:00 afternoon

Feeling lo

st? Rudderless? Unsure which method to turn? Unfortunately, us can’t help you uncover your way. Us are, after all, a proofreading site. But … we have the right to offer part direction on direction — specifically, whether to capitalize them.

You are watching: When do you capitalize north and south

At the most basic level, the conventional 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 component of a ideal noun or adjective or refer to regions or geographical areas. So:

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

Easy sufficient to remember, right? The tricky component is how to navigate related words such together northern, southern, eastern and also western. We might tell you to look it up, yet the rules in the go-to general style guides — AP Stylebook and Chicago hands-on of Style (CMOS) — problem in some instances.

AP capitalizes these terms when they refer to a an ar or the people from the region, yet not referrals to component of a region. CMOS, top top the other hand, claims to capitalize together terms only once they refer to places, not to human being from those locations … except in certain instances. Here’s what we end up with:

Southern accentsouthern* accent
northern Plainsnorthern plains
Western stateswestern states

*CMOS would capitalize Southern and 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., southern Side the Chicago, north Ireland, south east Asia). The difficulty is, what constitutes “well-recognized or popular” beyond widely known instances such together these?

For instance, need to “southern California” be lowercase? till its 16th edition, CMOS believed so. And if you nothing live in the area, would certainly you acknowledge “South Texas” together a popular description of the an ar around mountain Antonio?

No wonder directions are so confusing. Prevent the car! If your existing map isn’t cutting that — or Siri is taking you ~ above the scenic route when you particularly told she “get me there, stat!” — that time for some new navigation. In this case, us at prefer to count on the straightforward method in the Gregg reference Manual.

In short, it says to capitalize northern, southern, eastern, western and also related words once they refer to the world in a region or what they carry out (i.e., your political, cultural or society activities) or are part of the ar name. Nothing capitalize this words as soon as they refer to the general location, geography or climate the a region.

Snowbirds native the northern states invest their winters in the Southwest .The Mid-Atlantic states were the swing poll in the last election .The mid-Atlantic states had record snowfalls this year .The Northwest it s okay a many rain .The northwestern states acquire a lot of rain .Southern accent northern levels The Midwest ar sales figures are down this year .Northern Ireland , but north MontanaWestern Australia , but west Massachusetts

Regarding these last 2 examples, if you’re no sure about whether a particular region should it is in capitalized, look that up. Well-recognized areas are generally described as such online. Also, let paper definition be your guide. If you’re composing an article about economic development in east Michigan, you might want to capitalize Eastern, but a passing referral to the area in one more context would certainly be lowercase because the an ar isn’t known as such, uneven Southeast Michigan (also called Southeastern Michigan).

See more: The Upper Classes In Colonial America Consisted Of, Colonial Society

Because the the many stylistic variations, coming up with one best answer because that questions past those relating to compass directions or evident regions is difficult. Even CMOS hedges its advice through saying, “Note that exceptions based on particular regional, political or historic contexts room inevitable and also that one author’s strong preference need to usually be respected.”

The vital here is to be continuous and, when appropriate, come let context overview you. And if you acquire lost follow me the way, don’t be fear to stop and ask for directions, either by posting your question in the comments listed below or by questioning our grammar experts.