(A similar topic is discussed in French in the article points cardinaux.)
In writing compass points (or compass directions), follow the guidelines below.
On this page
Capitalize when the compass points refer to
part of an address:
- 150 East Dundas Street
- 111 King St. West
- winds NNW
- 28 miles SW of the city
informal district names:
- the Eastern Townships
- the South Shore
specific geographic divisions:
- the Northwest Territories
- North Vancouver
political or administrative rather than simply geographic divisions:
- the West
- Western values
- Western Europe
- the East Coast
- the Far North
- Northern Ireland
Do not capitalize
Do not capitalize when the compass points are used
as purely descriptive terms:
- southern exposure
- the north side of the house
as compass directions:
- Go south four blocks.
- Drive north to get to the highway.
- a garden to the west of the house
- We live east of Ottawa.
for unofficial geographic divisions:
- northern New Brunswick
- the west of Saskatchewan
- the east coast of Canada
Compass points containing two directions are written as one word:
Compass points containing three directions are hyphenated:
The list below shows the abbreviations for the 16 compass points.
Copyright notice for Writing Tips Plus
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada
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