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Compass Point Capitalization

By Judy Vorfeld

Have you ever won­dered when it’s okay to cap­i­tal­ize north, east, south, and west?

Most style guides say that com­pass points and the terms derived from them are low­er­cased if they just mean direc­tion or location.

But you cap­i­tal­ize them when they’re spe­cific regions or an inte­gral part of a proper name.

For exam­ple, you’d say:

  • Out West

  • Back East

  • The west­ern part of the state

  • Drive north three miles, then turn east (direction)

  • A north­ern winter

  • the West Coast (region)

  • west coast (shoreline)

  • west side of town (direction)

When all is said and done, vari­a­tions are based on con­text and usage. Use these only as guide­lines, not some­thing cast in concrete!

Information from the Chicago Manual of Style and The Gregg Reference Manual.

NOTE: Kudos to PJ Cahill for find­ing a typo and let­ting me know about it. Now this is net­work­ing at its best!


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