I am trying to capitalize Western Canada or western Canada properly and am wanting a definition for when the "ern" is added as a suffix to a locational distinction of a proper noun. I believe the capitalization is related to the suffix and am grouping two questions.

After researching on the internet I have found a trend that areas of discrete area become capitalized along with their proper noun

  • East New York
  • West Hollywood
  • East London (Britain)
  • East Los Angeles

Some locations have "ern" added to their locational modifier.

Web Examples (from government sites):

All the examples listed contain discrete areas. The "ern" suffix is used for larger areas, but I am unable to determine when an area becomes large enough.

  • 1
    I hold steadfastly to camelizing (capitalizing first letter) only if the adjective has officially become part of the proper noun. It is midstate and upstate New York not Midstate or Upstate New York. Example of proper noun - Upstate New York Bank. Otherwise, it is rather confusing and odd to write Northern North Carolina or South North Dakota. – Blessed Geek Dec 31 '13 at 3:03
  • Hello, and welcome to EL&U. – anongoodnurse Dec 31 '13 at 3:09

There are no rules to guide you; it is a matter of idiom. Once the area is sufficiently distinct, the description gets capitalized and a new proper name is born. As if that weren't enough trouble, sometimes the adjective form of the cardinal direction comes and goes. I live in South Florida, but other people live in Southern California. I was born in East Tennessee, a designation that arises from the from a statutory definition. Not to mention West Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. The Grand Divisions of Tennessee


Some directions or adjectives are part of a place's proper name, and others are not.

  • North York, East York: proper names which contain cardinal directions
  • north Toronto, northern Toronto: two ways to refer to the northern part of Toronto.
  • north York would be the northern part of York, not North York.

Is Western Canada a proper name? If so, capitalize it. If not, then western Canada is correct. As for the choice between "West Canada" and "Western Canada", it seems that when naming places that are explicitly located in certain positions relative to other, similarly-named places, you often use the bare direction. North Dakota, South Dakota. West Virginia. When referring to a portion of a larger whole, you use the adjective form: the southern US states.

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