Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Hyphens – part 3: compass points

with 3 comments

Compass Rose South
Image via Wikipedia

Compass points

Points of the compass should take a hyphen, for example:






Proper names

Capitalise points of the compass when they are part of a place name, for example:

South-East Asia

North-West Passage

However, note exceptions which do not take a hyphen, such as:

Northwest Territories (territory of northern Canada)

Northwest Territory (now Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin)

The names of winds

The names of winds are not hyphenated, for example:



The American way

In the US, fewer hyphens are used, for example, the following are correct:


Southeast Asia

But hyphens are used in the US as follows:



Hyphens to help avoid confusion

Hyphens and numbers

Hyphens and separating identical letters

Hyphens and compound nouns

Hyphens and compound adjectives

Hyphens and ‘un’ words


3 Responses

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  1. From today’s L.A. Times: “The National Weather Service is warning of high surf at west- and northwest-facing beaches, producing waves on [sic] eight to 10 feet with swells as high as 12 feet.” (The Times must follow AP style, which says to use numerals past nine.)

    Michael Farrell

    01/03/2010 at 4:12 pm

  2. That’s a strange one!


    01/03/2010 at 4:18 pm

    • Oh, we have high surf all the time.

      Michael Farrell

      01/03/2010 at 6:37 pm

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