Herein, our VP of Strategy asserts that the decision about capitalizing the “N” in “Northern” should not, in fact, be made on a case-by-case basis:
“Northern Nevada” should once and for all have two capital "N"s. Disagree? Fight her.
For my entire career, I’ve been a writer. And as such, when writing on their behalf, I’ve asked the same question of practically every client and employer:
“So, do we capitalize the ‘N’ in ‘Northern' when it appears before 'Nevada?'”
The result was almost always the same. Lots of hemming, abundant hawing, some dismissive comment like “Don’t we have a style guide entry about that?” to which I’d respond, “Um, we don’t have a style guide,” to which they’d respond, “Well we totally should.”
And then, without fail, I would have a shiny new task to write a style guide AND make a decision about the capital “N.” Awesome.
Fast-forward to present day. At the Estipona Group, we were recently getting set to launch our new website, JustThePositive.com, which is a platform for positive news about Reno, Sparks, Lake Tahoe and beyond. And so arose the same age-old conundrum: To capitalize, or not to capitalize?
The question was followed by a predictable amount of hemming, then abundant hawing, then a comment about a style guide, to which I said, “Dude, never mind, I’m on it.”
So here I am. Because you know what, guys? It’s time we create a universal style guide, not just for specific businesses — but for our entire region. This is part of a community brand strategy that is more significant than our individual interests. This is about pride in where we live.
Basically, AP Style — the standards-bearer for journalistic writing — advises to lowercase compass points in regional names: “central Louisiana,” for example. But here comes the important caveat: Unless it's a widely known section, as in Southern California or South Florida.
There it is, the magical loophole. And I think it’s time we exploit it to our full advantage.
Because guess what, Northern Nevada? It’s time to claim our capital “N.” We’ve earned it.
Making the Case for the Capital
I think you’d all agree that Southern California is capitalized because it's a cohesive destination, not just a direction. We’re referring to an identifiable region that has a personality that is far more significant than simply a letter on a compass.
The exact same argument can be made for Northern Nevada.
When we say “Northern Nevada,” we're not talking about “Nevada in the north.” We’re talking about our region — a community bound by geography, certainly. But more than that, we’re a destination bound by character. There’s a personality in our regional experience that goes well beyond the direction on a map.
The AP Style Guide hedges by advising lowercase, “…unless it’s a widely known section.” Nevada, it can be argued, doesn’t have many widely known sections. But of those that are widely known, we’re definitely among the top two entries on the list.
The Estipona Group is on board, and we’re claiming the capital "N." When we write on behalf of ourselves, or for Just the Positive, we will be do so knowing we’re reflecting our immense pride in this incredible home of ours. And fair warning to our clients: We’ll be strongly advising you do the same, likely sending you links to this very blog as subtle reasoning.
Because claiming our capital “N” sends a strong message of celebration, of reverence, of identity, of community. And if we establish this as a community-wide standard, not only are we saving future writers the hemming and hawing and style-guide creation — we’re showing those around us exactly who we are.
After all, we’re not just Nevada in the north — we are Northern Nevada.
Mikalee Byerman is the Vice President of Strategy for the Estipona Group, a humor writer and for the record, happens to be a fan of both lowercase and capital "N"s. She holds a master's degree in journalism and may or may not be an AP Style wonk. Contact her here. (PS The subject line is pre-populated thusly: "Ima fight you about capitalizing the letter 'N'")