Friday, May 11, 2012

Capitalization Rules for Writers (Part 5 of 8)

(Kathy Ide wrote this eight-part series.)

Regional Terms

Regional terms that are considered proper names should be capitalized. Adjectives and nouns are not. Here are some examples of capitalized terms:

* Central America

* the Continent (Europe)

* the East/North/South/West

* Eastern/Northern/Southern/Western Hemisphere

* Eastern culture

* Middle East(ern)

* the Midwest (US)

* North/South Pole

* the Orient

* an Oriental

* the Pole

* the Northwest/Southwest

* West Coast (US)

* Western world

Northern and Southern California are capitalized, but this does not extend to other US states.

Here are some examples of lowercased terms:

* central Europe

* eastern, easterner

* eastern seaboard (US)

* the equator

* northern Africa

* oriental culture

* polar regions

* the south of France

Topographical Names

Names of mountains, rivers, oceans, and islands are capitalized. When a generic term is used descriptively rather than as part of the name, or if it is used alone, it is lowercased. Examples:

* the California desert

* the Hudson River valley

* the Hawaiian Islands

* the island of Hawaii

* the Kansas prairie

* the valley of the Mississippi

Capitalize the generic term when it applies to two or more names preceding it. For example:

* “… the Illinois and the Chicago Rivers.”

Kathy Ide is a published author, ghostwriter, and freelance editor. She speaks at writers’ conferences, teaches online writing and editing courses, and mentors new writers. She’s the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Network ( Learn more at

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