Squib: capitalization of directions

Scribe:  Please advise on capitalization of N,S,W,E.  For example, Stephen lives on the Northeast corner of the floor.  Stephen lives on the East wall.  I drove East on I84.  Etc.  Help! 

Sincerely, A Fan

Courtesy of Flickr member:  Steve Snodgrass

Courtesy of Flickr member: Steve Snodgrass

Dear Fan,

That is an interesting subtopic.  North, south, east, and west are cardinal directions.

When talking about a general direction, the word is not capitalized, e.g.: the north side of the house, the northeast corner of the floor, the east wall, cold north wind, go east for three miles.  This is because in those instances, the direction is used as a common noun—not a proper noun. 

But when a direction is used as a proper noun, it is capitalized, e.g.:  The Northwest, West Virginia, the South.

The Scribe

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