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5 Capitalization

5.5 Geographical locations and buildings

Capitalize names of geographical regions and areas, named astronomical and topographical features, buildings, and other constructions:

the Milky Way (but the earth, the sun, the moon, except in astronomical contexts (see 14.7.1) and personification)
New Englandthe Big Applethe Eternal City
Mexico City (but the city of Birmingham)
London Road (if so named, but the London road for one merely leading to London)
the Strait of Gibraltarthe Black Forest
the Thames Estuary (but the estuary of the Thames)
the Eiffel TowerTrafalgar Square
the Bridge of SighsTimes Square
River, sea, and ocean are generally capitalized when they follow the specific name:

the East River

the Yellow River

the Aral Sea

the Atlantic Ocean

However, where river is not part of the true name but is used only as an identifier it is downcased:

the Danube river

When river precedes the specific name it can be either upper or lower case, depending on the style adopted:

the River Tamar or the river Tamar
‘The River Plate’ is always capitalized, being a conventional mistranslation of Río de la Plata (‘Silver River’). Names of well-known or previously mentioned rivers may be written without the specifying word (the Amazon, the Mississippi). A lower-case identifier may be added where some clarification is required—to differentiate between the Amazon river and forest, or the Mississippi river and state.

Capitalize compass directions only when they denote a recognized political or cultural entity:

North Carolina

Northern Ireland (but northern England)

the mysterious East

the West End

Usage in this area is very fluid, and terms may be capitalized or downcased depending on context and emphasis. For example, a book dealing in detail with particular aspects of London life might capitalize North London, South London, etc., while one mentioning the city merely in passing would be more likely to use north London and south London. Adjectives ending in -ern are sometimes used to distinguish purely geographical areas from regions seen in political or cultural terms: so

Kiswahili is the most important language of East Africa
but
Prickly acacia is found throughout eastern Africa

For treatment of foreign place names see 6.2.

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Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms