Knowing when to capitalize words that are just as commonly not capitalized is one of the toughest tricks in writing. Words that indicate when and where are particularly tricky. Fortunately our friends at the Associated Press do a great job of laying out the rules.
Compass directions, for example (east, south, northwest), are typically lowercase. That includes when they’re used with countries, states and cities (eastern North Dakota, southern Italy). There is a however, however. If directional terms are used to designate what’s considered a widely known region (the Midwest, the Northeast, Southern California, the Lower East Side of Manhattan), they need to be capitalized.
Times of the year present a similar quandary. Seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) and their derivatives (springtime, wintertime) are lowercase unless they’re part of a formal name (Summer Fest, the Winter Olympics). Then they’re capitalized.
There are plenty of confusing derivatives in the whens and wheres you’ll have to address, but if you follow these basic guidelines, you should be fine most of the time.
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