Geographical and political regions

Use of capitals for geographical and political regions

Use initial capitals for the names of geographical regions:

Africa     Asia     Europe     Latin America     the Caribbean     Oceania

Other geographical names and derived terms include (note capitalisation):

Antarctica     the Antarctic Circle     the Antarctic Continent     Antarctic Circumpolar Current     Australian Antarctic Territory     Antarctic beech [a type of Southern Hemisphere tree] [Use lower case for antarctic when meaning extremely cold.]

the Arctic     the Arctic Circle     Arctic waters     a mass of Arctic air [Use lower case for arctic when meaning extremely cold.]

the poles     the North Pole     the North Polar ice cap     the South Pole     polar regions

Southeast Asia     central Asia

Asia–Pacific region   but   Indo-Pacific

the Australian Alps     the Alps

an Alpine village [if in the European or Australian Alps]   but   alpine pastures in the mountains

the equator     equatorial climate     the Equatorial Current

the tropics     tropical     the Tropic of Cancer     the Neotropics     Neotropical [of the New World biogeographical region]     the subtropics     subtropical

New World [the Americas]

Old World [regions known to Europeans before the discovery of the Americas – Africa, Asia and Europe]

the Far East [historical term used in Europe to refer to a region east of the Near East and the Middle East]

Near East [historical term used in Europe to refer to a region east of the Mediterranean. It has included different countries from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean to the western side of India, and is now mostly replaced by Middle East.]

Middle East

central Africa [if referring to a location]     Central Africa [if referring to Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda]

the West [refers to countries of western Europe and those with a western European background, such as North America and Australia. See Developed versus developing countries for more information on using this term.]

the East     the Orient [both refer to countries east of Europe]

continental Europe [‘the Continent’]

continent of Australia     mainland of Australia [both terms exclude Tasmania]

Eurasia [the landmass of Asia and Europe]

Use initial capitals for political divisions when they are part of the formal name but not when used generically:

Eastern Highlands     Northern Province     Milne Bay [all provinces of Papua New Guinea, but province is part of only one of the names]

South Sulawesi [a province]     the province of South Sulawesi

the United Kingdom     Great Britain     Britain   not   the kingdom

Melbourne City     the city of Melbourne

port of Darwin     Darwin Port

the Commonwealth of Australia     the Commonwealth [when used in reference to Australia]     the state of New South Wales     the Australian Capital Territory

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Foreign terms for geographic entities

When a foreign generic term forms part of a geographical name, the equivalent English term should not be included because it will be redundant:

the Rio Grande [not the Rio Grande River – rio means river]

Mount Fuji or Fujiyama [not Mount Fujiyama]

Mauna Loa [not Mount Mauna Loa – mauna means mount]

the Sierra Nevada [not the Sierra Nevada Mountains]

Sahara [not Sahara desert – Sahara means desert]

However, a number of official and formal names are tautological:

Lake Rotorua [roto means lake in Maori]

Timor-Leste [Timor from timur meaning east in Indonesian, and leste meaning east in Portuguese]

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Informal terms

Certain terms considered political rather than geographical can take either initial capitals or lower case:

iron curtain   or   Iron Curtain

third world   or   Third World [See Developed versus developing countries for information on using this term.]

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Abbreviations for geographical terms

Formal names should be written in full in running text, but may be abbreviated where space is limited (eg tables, maps):

Mount Wellington   not   Mt Wellington

Abbreviations for topographical features do not take stops:

B             bay

C             cape

Cr            creek

G             gulf

I, Is         island, islands

L             lake

Lgn         lagoon

In            inlet

Mt           mount or mountain

Mts         mountains

Pk           peak

Pen         peninsula

Pt            point

R             river

Ra           range

Str           strait

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