Geographic Terms

Words/phrases that identify distinct areas, regions, places, divisions, or districts of continents and countries are capitalized when used as proper nouns or in an address. Derivatives are also capitalized. Other guidelines are:

  • Names of mountains, rivers, oceans, islands, etc. are capitalized, including generic terms when used as part of a proper noun, e.g. Pacific Ocean, the Hudson River. Generic terms are also capitalized when preceding a proper noun, as Lakes Michigan and Huron, unless the word ‘the’ is used. Generic terms used in the plural following the names of more than one geographical place and generic terms used alone are lowercased.
  • Buildings, public places (as monuments, parks, landmarks), and names of streets are capitalized when used as proper nouns or in an address.
  • Popular and legendary names of places are capitalized, e.g. ‘Windy City’, and ‘the Street’ for Wall Street.
  • Compass points and directions are capitalized when they refer to a specific region or are part of an address. A descriptive term used to denote direction or position is not a proper noun and is not capitalized, e.g. western Connecticut.
  • Derivative nouns and adjectives of compass points that refer to a particular region are usually capitalized.
  • Words/phrases that designate political divisions are capitalized when used as proper nouns or in an address, e.g. Washington State, Third Congressional District.
  • ‘Saint’ is often abbreviated in geographic names, e.g. St. Louis.
  • Country names are usually abbreviated only in tables. ‘United States’ is often abbreviated especially when used as an adjective, e.g. U.S. (or US) military action. Countries whose abbreviations are formed by the initial letters of the constituent words may be unpunctuated, e.g. USA, USSR.

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