GrammarPhile Blog

Do You Believe in Capital Punishment?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   May 22, 2014 10:09:20 AM

Capitol Building at NightThe consequence for abusing uppercase letters is Capital Punishment. Don't let us find you guilty! Take heed of the following and let's "eliminate" mistakes before they end up in print.

Capitalize these common terms:
  • the Gulf
  • the Upper West Side
  • the Promised Land
  • the Sun Belt
  • the continental United States
  • Lake Michigan; Lakes Michigan and Erie; the Great Lakes
  • Washington State; the state of Washington
  • the Great Plains
  • the Wild West
  • the Old World
  • Back Bay
  • the Badger State
  • the Upper West Side
  • Skid Row
Other terms are not so straightforward. There are variations based on context and usage.
  • Central America; central Asia; central Illinois
  • southern Colorado; Southern California; South Florida; Central Florida
  • the Southeast, the Southwest, southeastern, southwestern
  • the West, western, westerner (of a country); the West Coast; the West, Western (referring to the culture of the Occident, or Europe and the Western Hemisphere)
  • the South, southern, a southerner (of a country); but the South, Southern, a Southerner (in American War Between the States contexts)
  • the equator; equatorial climate; the Equatorial Current; Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea)
  • the tropics, tropical; the Tropic of Cancer; the Neotropics, Neotropical; the subtropics
  • the poles; the North Pole; the North Polar ice cap; polar regions
  • Antarctica; the Arctic; Arctic waters; a mass of Arctic air
Entities that appear on maps are always capitalized, as are adjectives and nouns derived from them. An initial the as part of a name is lowercased in running text, except in the rare case of an initial the in the name of a city.
  • Asia; Asian
  • South China Sea
  • Ireland; Irish
  • the North Pole
  • BUT The Hague
Governmental entities are sometimes treated differently.
  • Bozo works for the Village of Forest Park.
  • That is a City of Chicago ordinance.
  • BUT Residents of the village of Forest Park enjoy easy access to the city of Chicago.

Source: The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Topics: capitalization

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