Places to Call to Your Attention

We’re continuing a look at capitalization rules for US standard rules according to The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the authority used in the publishing world. Popular names of places, or epithets, are usually capitalized. Quotation marks are not needed.  Note that where the article the is used, it is not capitalized.

  • the Fertile Crescent
  • the Gaza Strip
  • the Gulf
  • the Holy City
  • the Jewish Quarter
  • the Lake District
  • the Left Bank
  • the Loop (Chicago)
  • the Old World
  • the Panhandle
  • the Promised Land
  • Silicon Valley
  • Skid Row

Names of mountains, rivers, oceans, islands, and so forth are capitalized. The generic term (mountain, etc.) is also capitalized when used as part of the name.

  • the Bering Strait
  • the Mediterranean Sea; the Mediterranean
  • the Pacific Ocean; the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans
  • the Great Barrier Reef
  • the Hawaiian Islands; Hawaii; but the island of Hawaii
  • Mount Washington; Mount Rainier; Mounts Washington and Rainier
  • the Rocky Mountains; the Rockies
  • Death Valley; the Valley of Kings
  • the Continental Divide

The best and simplest way to generalize capitalization rules is to consider whether what you are writing is a proper name or something more general. Proper names should have initial caps. General terms do not. That’s not always the case, but when in doubt, default to that principle.

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    1. Titles of books are treated differently than places. If the book has “the” in the title, it has an initial cap: The Chicago… Newspapers you have to check because one might be called the Post and another The Times. Titles of books and newspapers, BTW, are italicized.

  1. Just another example of how English is trickier than other languages. In German, the living is easy, they capitalize everything! These rules, however, make complete sense to me, it’s everything else that I mess up! 🙂 I do sometimes have difficulty with compass directions: “he walked to the west”; “the West won the Cold War.”

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