When Does “North” Need a Capital Letter?

Last updated Mar 26, 2024
By Lucy Williams

Most of us learn the basics of capitalization at school. We know to use a capital letter to start a sentence, for names, months, and days of the week. But when does north need a capital letter? And, come to that, when do you capitalize south, east, and west?

Is it northern France or Northern France? North America or north America? Is the rule to do with capitals with compass points? Proper nouns?

Test yourself with our quiz! You’ll find some hints and tips on when to use a capital letter with north, south, east, and west in the answer section below.

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Quiz: Is the capitalization of the word north or northern correct or incorrect?

1. He drove north towards Northern Ireland.

2. He lives in northern France.

3. This is becoming much more widespread in north Carolina.

4. Santa Claus lives in the north Pole.

5. It was filmed in northern Montana.

Scroll down for the answers

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Answers to the quiz on when to capitalize north

1. Correct. Use lower case for compass directions (he drove north) but capitalize for regions, part of a proper name, or to designate a politically divided nation (Northern Ireland).

2. Correct. Use lower case with parts of nations (unless part of a proper name or used to designate a politically divided nation).

3. Incorrect. Capitalize compass points when part of a proper name.

4. Incorrect. Capitalize when combining with another common noun to form the name for a region or location.

5. Correct. Use lower case when referring to a section of a state or city.

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03/06/2024 08:20 pm GMT

Written by Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a subtitler and a Spanish-English translator for fashion, tourism and luxury goods/services. She holds the CIOL Diploma in Translation and is a native English copywriter specialising in SEO-optimised long-form content. Connect with Lucy on LinkedIn.

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