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Don't use abbreviations
If the name can be spelled without an abbreviation, then don't abbreviate it. Computers can easily shorten words, but not the other way (St. could be Street or Saint). If the signs have abbreviated words and you don't know what the full word is, then use it temporarily until someone else completes it. Using short forms is a decision of software, i.e., the underlying data should have the full street name. This will allow a renderer, a router or a location finder to introduce abbreviations as necessary. See, for instance, the list of abbreviations used by Name Finder and Nominatim.
Use mixed case with the first letter of each word capitalised, e.g., Church Street, not Church street. Note: Regional rules have preference over general rules. For example, in Flemish, capitalisation of last names gives a hint about the nobility status of the person. Street or company names derived from those last names should copy the same capitalisation. In non-Latin based languages, it's often not even possible to capitalise a name.
Apart from following the above rules, you should always enter the full name as it appears on the street name signs.
Be aware that street signs may contain errors.
Watch out for apostrophes. The same rule applies. If the street sign has an apostrophe, the OSM data should have an apostrophe. There is no obvious consistency; the London Underground station Barons Court is adjacent to Earl's Court, one with an apostrophe, one without.
Don't describe things using name tag
The names should be restricted to the name of the item in question only and should not include categories, types, descriptions, addresses or notes. If something really doesn't have a name, don't add one to OpenStreetMap. Any additional information should be included in separate tags (see, e.g., aforementioned links) to identify its meaning.
Some examples of incorrect usage:
- Manchester City (for a city named Manchester, do not add a descriptive City; note that New York City may be correct as the common name for The City of New York)
- Multipolygon Baldo Forest: do not include the object type or other OSM terminology, if it does not apply outside of OSM
- The Royal Albert Hall, London: do not otherwise include the location London as part of the name, even if there are multiple objects of the same name
- closed pub (due for demolition): do not describe the object in lieu of a name. Consider the description tag and also adding an old_name tag
- no name (see #No name, below)
- Interstate 5 southbound lanes: do not separately name parts of the same object where they are separate in OSM, but not outside of OSM.
Objects (usually streets) which have no name:
- without name=* or it's variants
- additionally could be tagged noname=yes, but there are several tagging proposals under discussion: Proposed features/Noname. The idea is to clearly indicate that the street genuinely doesn't have a name, because the absence
of a name tag is increasingly used to indicate areas which need to be surveyed still.