Capitalizing North, South, East, and West

As a general rule, we do not capitalize the compass point directions, such as north, south, east or west, unless they are in a title (see above)
or part of a proper name (North Sea, South Korea, West Virginia, East Timor).
There are tens of thousands of stripper wells in west Texas.
The cold front is coming from the north.

Neither do we capitalize combinations of the four directions, such as north-northeast or southwest.
The same rule goes for adjectives and derivatives like southern or northeastern – unless, of course, it’s a proper name like Northwestern University.

There is another exception: we do capitalize the direction when it is the name of a region.
During the Civil War, the Yankees burned many cities in the South.
Tornados are expected in the Midwest.
There is no offshore drilling allowed along the entire East Coast.
The customary greeting in the West is a handshake; in the Far East it is a bow.

If in doubt, according to the AP Style Guide, use lower case.


2 Responses to “Capitalizing North, South, East, and West”

  1. harliquin shickbob Says:


  2. Cipriana Says:

    thanks, clearer than most messy explanations I have come across today.

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