|Follow National Geographic Atlas of the World, then the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, whose database for U.S. and Antarctic place-names can be found at the USGS Geographic Names Information System and for non-U.S. names at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). See also individual entries in this manual.
National Geographic political maps use the official national spelling
for place-names, with historical or conventional names in parentheses:
Roma (Rome), Mumbai (Bombay), Donau (Danube).
Physical maps generally
carry just the conventional place-name. When a place-name is disputed or
there are variants, National Geographic does not arbitrate but follows a
long-standing policy of reflecting the current de facto political
reality. The primary name used is that of the controlling government
with variants in parentheses:
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).
name is jointly controlled by more than one country or is in
international waters, the conventional name is given first with variants
Mount Everest (Sagarmatha, Qomolangma), Sea of Japan
For hyphens with compound place-names, follow the style used in the NGS
atlas; if the place-name is not in the atlas, omit hyphens on both page
maps and in text except in French and French-Canadian names:
Stow on the
Wold, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Trois-Rivières.
||Abbreviations: Spell out place-names in text and legends with few
exceptions, such as D.C., U.S., and U.S.S.R. Spell out United States on
its first appearance if possible. Saint is generally abbreviated St. or
Ste., but Fort and Mount are spelled out. Avenue and Street are
spelled out in text but may be abbreviated (Ave. and St.) on page maps
or in map notes. Numbered avenues and streets through Ninth are spelled
||Capitalization: Capitalize a geographic element such as Bay,
Street, Range, or Valley that is part of a place-name. Do not capitalize
when it appears separately or in inverted order or when it is not part
of the proper name: Massachusetts Avenue, the avenue; the Rocky
Mountains, the mountains; Sahara desert (though preferable to use just
Sahara); Tangier Island, the island of Tangier; Valley of Mexico, the
Nile Valley, the valley of the Nile; Sierra Nevada mountains (though preferable to use just Sierra Nevada). Exceptions: English Channel,
the Channel; European continent, the Continent (for Europe only); Gulf
of Mexico, the Gulf; Thames River or River Thames. (See Foreign Terms, below, for Capitalization of Foreign Place-Names.)
Capitalize the article the in a very few place-names: The Dalles,
The Hague. Do not capitalize the in the following examples: the Florida Keys, the Keys; McMurdo Dry Valleys, the Dry
Valleys; the Bay Area.
||Foreign Terms: Place-names from foreign languages appear in
roman; retain diacritical marks if original is from a Latin alphabet
except in commonly anglicized names: Montreal, Quebec, Istanbul. If
transliterated from a non-Latin alphabet, diacritical marks are
generally not used except on atlas and supplement maps. Place-names from
Arabic or Cyrillic follow the common anglicized spellings.
See also CHINESE NAMES AND TERMS. For Arabic names see also ARABIC LANGUAGE TRANSLITERATION OF.
Capitalization of Foreign Place-Names: When a geographic term is part of the name, lowercase the geographic term.
For example, Tian Shan means "Heavenly Mountains," so lowercase "range" in: Tian Shan range.
||Translations: The translation, like the original, is roman. If a
translation is itself used as the place-name in subsequent references,
use initial caps and no quotation marks. Otherwise, lowercase and place
the translation within quotation marks.
|The Rio Chico (Little River) lay before us. We traveled up the Little River. . . .
Paddan Aram, or "field of Aram," bustled. . . .
Mahn-a-wau-kie, meaning "gathering place by the rivers."
Halab Shahba—"to milk the white cow"—was nearby.
||Plurals: When two or more place-names share a common element, the
common element is capped: the Thames and Avon Rivers. When two or more
places have the same name, form the plural with s or es: the two Germanys.
||Verb agreement: If a place-name is plural in form but is
considered as a single unit, use a singular verb: The United States is
my home; the Netherlands was represented; the Golan Heights was taken by
Israel in the Six Day War. Use a plural verb if the place-name is
considered as having multiple units: the Rockies are good for climbing;
the Hawaiian Islands attract many tourists.