Blog - Proofreading and Copy Editing

Points of the Compass: Capitalisation, Hyphenation and Abbreviation

This post will deal with points of the compass and, more specifically, when to capitalise and when to hyphenate them, and how to abbreviate them.


1. Do not capitalise when speaking in general terms:

Head east on this road for 5 km.

The country is located in the southern part of the continent.

2. Capitalise when referring to a specific region (e.g. a cultural or political entity):

He wants to stay in the UK and move to the South West.

Sarah had always dreamed of visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.


1. Hyphenate when two or more compass points are used together:

Valladolid lies to the north-west of Madrid in Spain.

2. But, do not hyphenate capitalised specific regions:

South East Asia

3. Compound names of winds are written as one word with no hyphen:



Use the upper case first letter and no full stop to abbreviate points of the compass: N, S, E, W.

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