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There are city names in the United Kingdom like "Stratford-upon-Avon" or "Newcastle upon Tyne". Then, I wonder: is there any general rule on how they should be written?

Case: In general, I see the second name is written in lowercase.

Dash: However, I wonder if a dash should or should not be written in between each pair of words.

Hence, what is more appropriate, if there is any standard?

  • Name1-name2-Name3
  • Name1 name2 Name3

More names I came across:

  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Oldbury-on-Severn
  • Wotton-under-Edge
  • Wells-next-the-Sea
  • Sutton-cum-Lound
  • Southend-on-Sea
  • Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
  • Newport-On-Tay

in Geonames I could find more than a hundred.

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  • To complicate matters: the city of Stoke-on-Trent was created from the amalgamation of six towns (that still exist) one of which is Stoke-upon-Trent.
    – Jan
    Jul 20, 2020 at 11:14
  • Doesn't 'There are city names in the United Kingdom like "Stratford-upon-Avon" or "Newcastle upon Tyne"' render 'I wonder: is there any general rule on how they should be written?' needless? Jul 20, 2020 at 11:27

1 Answer 1

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There isn't a standard. You just have to memorize them. :) On the one hand, you have:

  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Stoke-on-Trent

On the other, you have:

  • Kingston upon Hull
  • Newcastle upon Tyne

In the cases of lesser-known towns, the dashed approach seems to be used far more commonly when the town's name features a preposition, such as the examples below. This practice generally does not carry over town names of three words or more that do not contain prepositions, such as Welwyn Garden City and Portishead and North Weston.

  • Appleby-in-Westmorland
  • Barrow-in-Ferness
  • Henley-in-Arden
  • Kirton-in-Lindsey
  • Burnham-on-Crouch
  • Chapel-en-le-Frith
  • Stockton-on-Tees

There are, however, occasional exceptions, such as:

  • Medlar with Wesham
  • Northleach with Eastington
  • Burton upon Trent

You'll even find one or two towns that seem to disobey all statutes of sense, like Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge (that's a single town). I can't speak to why the dash is used, except in that it might help people read multi-word town names cohesively (but really, Stratford-upon-Avon literally is Stratford upon Avon). It does seem the majority of towns use the dash, but there are several examples of towns and cities that omit it. As such, my advice is to check external references before assuming.

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  • This list doesn't include fictional towns. E.g., Doctor Dolittle came from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. I'll bet there are many more such towns in literature. Does this not count because it's 4 words?
    – Barmar
    Nov 12, 2014 at 18:37
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    @Barmar Of course I'm not including fictional towns... :) Generally, the point is that there is no standard, so in the case of fictional towns, one should refer to the work of fiction to which the town belongs.
    – R Mac
    Nov 12, 2014 at 18:46
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    @TimLymington Hence the "as far as I know". I don't doubt that there are more, but my answer was meant more to illustrate that there is no standard rule. The Britons are a race shy to standards, you see. :)
    – R Mac
    Nov 12, 2014 at 18:48
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    @Hugo thanks, it makes sense. Then, the answer to my question is just "no, there is no standard", which is what R Mac wrote. I will accept it in a while, although I think the sentence "Fortunately, there are only four such cities..." would be better removed, because unfortunately is not true :(
    – fedorqui
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:34
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    This ended up being a beautiful answer! Thanks a lot for the effort and the capacity to write such a comprehensive text.
    – fedorqui
    Nov 14, 2014 at 21:43

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