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Race and ethnicity

When to hyphenate ethnic terms
Note that racial and ethnic terms are used both as nouns and as adjectives. Do not hyphenate these terms if they are used as a noun, but hyphenate them if they are used as an adjective. The following are some of the more common ethnic groups:

  • African American (be sensitive to the true ethnicity of black people from other countries. See African American for further discussion.)
  • Asian American 
  • European American 
  • Hispanic American (Americans with ancestors from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South and Central America)
  • Mexican American  (Chicano and Chicana refer specifically to those of Mexican descent)
  • Native American is preferred (See Native American). American Indian is also acceptable.
  • Caucasian (commonly used to refer to anyone with light skin)
  • Latino and Latina (people of Latin American descent; less broad than Hispanic and preferred by some to Chicano and Chicana , which refer specifically to those of Mexican descent. Use the term preferred by the individual or group about whom you are writing.)
  • People of color (for any non-European Americans and their descendants)

Black and white
If a more specific racial and ethnic identification would seem stilted, the terms black and white may be used to refer to individuals of African-American and European-American ancestry. The terms are not proper nouns and so are not capitalized unless that is a particular group’s preference.

Other possible terms
Other terms to consider: minorities, ethnic minorities, people.

Regional terms / Points of the compass

Capitalize place names and regional terms when referring to specific locations, or place names specific to a period of history:

  • When we visited my family in the South, I developed a taste for anything fried in lard.
  • The avian flu outbreak in Southeast Asia precipitated the grisly slaughter of millions of chickens.
  • Del Rio is where the feel of the border changes from South Texas to West Texas.
  • He runs an STI clinic in East Baltimore.
  • Assateague Island, on the Eastern Shore, is rife with mosquitoes and small, malnourished, feral horses.
  • In Northwest Maryland you'll find the spectacular Cunningham Falls.
  • Thankfully, the Northerners prevailed against the Southerners in the Civil War.
  • During the Cold War, we rode our bicylces through Eastern Europe because there was so little gasoline.

Do not capitalize the points of the compass when used non-specifically:

  • We borrowed a car, drove west for 72 hours, and arrived in California delirious.
  • The northwestern region of Maryland is known for its for hog farms and manure lagoons.
  • Baltimore is famous for its northern hospitality and southern efficiency.
  • A north wind's a' gonna blow.
  • Beware of fast-talking northerners.
  • The herb can be found in many mountainous regions of eastern Europe.

Relative pronouns

See that/which.
See who/whom.

Room numbers

Place room numbers after the building name.

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