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.