General principles for place names

Use initial capitals for all nouns and adjectives in formal place names (eg continents, countries, cities, oceans):

Australia     Asia     Sydney       Atlantic Ocean     South Pole     Lake George

Also use initial capitals for adjectives and nouns derived from place names:

Australian     Asian     Canberran     Victorian

Many geographical names comprise a specific word (or proper noun) (eg Murray, Bass) and a generic word (eg river, mountain). Use initial capitals for both components if they are part of the formal name:

Mount Kosciuszko     the Blue Mountains     the Great Dividing Range     the Murray River     Blue Lake      Lake Eyre     the Tasman Sea     Bass Strait     Torres Strait     the Great Barrier Reef     Lord Howe Island      Freycinet Peninsula

If you are not sure whether a name is a formal name, look it up in the dictionary. If the name appears as a formal name in the Macquarie dictionary (for Australian names) or the Oxford dictionary (for other countries), use initial capitals; if it does not appear, use lower case:

Top End   but   western New South Wales     north shore [of Sydney]

Omit the apostrophe in possessive forms:

Arthurs Lake     Kings Cross

When 2 or more names of the same type occur together, use lower case for the generic part of the name:

the Murray River     the Darling River     the Murray and Darling rivers     Mount Wellington     Mount Field     mounts Wellington and Field

Caution! The Gazetteer of Australia lists the official name as Murray River in New South Wales and Victoria, but River Murray in South Australia.

However, generic terms have initial capitals when they are plural but part of a single name:

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Shortened forms also have initial capitals if they include a specific element of the name:

the Hawaiian Islands     Hawaii     the island of Hawaii

the Windward Islands     the Windwards

the Rocky Mountains     the Rockies

the Great Dividing Range     the Divide     the Great Divide

the Great Barrier Reef     the Reef

the Great Australian Bight     the Bight

the Nullarbor Plain     the Nullarbor

Do not use initial capitals for words that appear to be part of a name but are generic words used decriptively:

the Amazon basin

the California desert

the Goulburn River valley [river is part of the formal name but valley is not]

the Indian subcontinent [a descriptive rather than formal geographical name]

See also Geographical features, places and buildings.

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