As a geographical editor, one issue that comes up consistently is the proper capitalization and use of geographical terms. This short blog post should help!
The Modern Language Association (MLA) rules are taught in most grade schools, middle schools, and high schools. It’s the first style guide we learn (and sometimes forget, which is why a geographical editor comes in handy).
MLS follows the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) in geographical usage. CMOS is the style guide used often in business and the literary world. So let’s get started with a geographical usage memory jogger.
At the most basic, we capitalize the words North, South, East, and West when referring to “regions or cultures.”
Customs in the East differ from those in the West.
She moved from the East Coast to the West Coast.
The South lost the war.
You should read both Western and Eastern philosophy.See mla.org
It gets more complicated from there, and following are a few more tips.
Sometimes the “rules” are confusing, but a geographical editor can help with best practices
- In general, capitalize the names of countries, cities, counties, regions, geographical divisions, and topographical features.
- Keep an eye out for the differences between region, compass direction, and description and the appropriate usage (note there can be overlap — you have to think strategically).
- DO use capital letters that designate definite regions (traditional geographic locations).
- DO NOT use capital letters for informal names of an area.
- DO NOT use capital letters for words that give a compass direction (ordinal).
- DO NOT capitalize the words northern, southern, eastern, and western when they come before a place name, unless it’s a formal part of the name.
Consistency of use is extremely important in a manuscript, whatever decisions you make as an author. If you are feeling lost in the weeds, don’t worry. Your book editor will catch these nuances and suggest corrections.
Contact me for your book editing and ghostwriting needs!
I’ll sort through geographical words, capitalization, and best usage — as well as a hundred other technical issues that crop up in your manuscript. Give me a shout!