When Do You Capitalize Directions?
It depends on the context.
Sometimes directional terms such as "south" are capitalized and sometimes they aren’t.
When you’re describing a direction, "south" is lowercase:
The map is behind a secret door on the south wall.
Directional Region Names: Capitalized
When you’re naming a region, "South" is capitalized. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Mobile are all in the South, not the south. The same holds true for other directional terms that are also the names of regions: Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, Middle East, and so on. Often, if you can put "the" in front of the name, it’s capitalized:
He’s from the South.
Directional Terms to Describe People: It Depends
When directional terms are used to describe people, style guides offer differing advice. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style prefers "southerner," whereas the Associated Press prefers "Southerner."
If a directional term is the name of a region, capitalize it. If it’s just a compass point, lowercase it. If you’re unsure, check a dictionary or style guide.
Get more tips like this in The Grammar Devotional: