Dates. Simple everyday things. As simple as they are, they can be confusing, especially when you see them written in foreign formats.
It’s important to note that we may use different styles and formats in different countries and regions, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local conventions.
And in some formal writing styles, the full numeric format is preferred, while in others the abbreviated numeric format may be used.
When writing dates, you also consider punctuation and the order in which the elements are written, such as day-month-year or month-day-year.
So, what’s the proper way to write dates? How do they differ from region to region?
Read on to find out.
Proper Way To Write Dates
To ensure consistency and clarity when writing dates in numerical format or when dates are sorted chronologically, it is important to ensure that the day and month are written as two digits, with a leading zero added if necessary, e.g. 01/02/2023.
Although the forward slash separator is the most widely recognized and accepted separator for numeric formats in many regions, you can also use periods or hyphens.
The proper way of writing dates depends on many factors including geographical region, language rules, and formalness.
In the subsequent sections, I have provided the proper ways of writing different types of dates within the given rules.
Writing Years (Single Years & Decades)
Numerically, the year is usually written in the four-digit format because it looks more professional. However, you can also use the two-digit format, which works just fine. If you use the latter, make sure that you have put an apostrophe before the year.
Here are some examples of writing the year in different formats:
Four-digit format: 2023, 2022, 2021, etc.
- “The book is scheduled for release in 2023.”
- “He was last seen around this area in 2018.”
Two-digit format: ‘23, ‘99, ‘21, etc.
- “I still remember that the Super Bowl we went to was in ‘99.”
- “I graduated in ’21 and have been working for two years now.”
It is important to note that the two-digit format gets confusing once you go way back in time. For example, the last two digits of 1889 are 89, just like those of 1989.
You can also write years in word form; you simply need to spell out the numbers that make up the year.
- 2023 can be written as “two thousand twenty-three”
- 2022 can be written as “two thousand twenty-two”
The same rules apply for decades. You can say “the 1990s” or “the 90s.”
- “The 1990s were characterized by significant advancements in technology and cultural change.”
- “The 90s were a memorable decade for many, marked by iconic fashion trends and popular music.”
In word form, “the 1980s” become “the nineteen-eighties,” and “the 80s” become “the eighties.”
Writing Years and Months
There are also several ways of writing years and months. You can use a full numerical format or combine the numerals and letters.
Numeric format: 02/2023, 08/2022, etc.
- “The deadline for the project is 02/2023.”
Full written format: February 2023, August 2022, etc.
- “I’m planning to take a vacation in August 2022.”
Abbreviated written format: Feb 2023, Aug 2022, etc.
- “The school year starts in Sep 2023.”
Writing Months and Days
Here is another instance where British and American English disagree. When writing February 8th in the full numeric format, you either write “02/08” using the American format or “08/02” using the British one. So if you write the two statements below, your region or audience will determine their correctness, but they are generally both correct.
- “The meeting is scheduled for 02/08.”
- “The meeting is scheduled for 08/02.”
You can also write the month in letters and the days in numbers.
- “The conference starts on Feb 8.”
You can also use ordinal numbers like in the example below
- “My birthday is on the 8th of February.”
You can also use an abbreviated format: Feb 8, 8 Feb, etc.
Writing Full Dates
Month-Day-Year (American Format)
In American English, we typically write the full date in the format of month, day, and year, for example, “January 1, 2000.” When using this format, always include the comma after the day when writing the full date in this format.
You must also pay attention to capitalization. The first letter of the month’s name is capitalized, as is the first letter of any other days of the week that may be included, for example, “Monday, January 1, 2000.”
When writing a full numerical date, use 01/05/2000 for January 5, 2000. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this format may not be universally recognized or understood, as most of Europe, Asia, and Africa usually use the British format.
It’s always a good idea to understand which format your audience prefers for unambiguous communication.
Month-Day-Year (British Format)
In the British format, the full date is written as day, month, and year. The day is written first, followed by the month, and then the year. For example, February 10, 2023 (in American format) becomes 10 February 2023 (in British format).
In formal contexts, it is prudent to use the month’s full name instead of its abbreviation. However, in some circumstances, it is acceptable to use the abbreviated form of the month. For example, 10 Feb 2023.
In numerical format, the 10th of February 2023 would be written as 10/02/2023.
Writing Dates With Week Days
When writing dates that include the day of the week, the day of the week is typically written before the date and separated by a comma.
The comma in this applies to both the British and American formats.
- Monday, February 10, 2023 (American format)
- Monday, 10 February 2023 (British format)
Writing dates is as easy as pie—or maybe even easier if you’re not a fan of baking. Just remember, whatever format you use, make sure that the format used is consistent within the document and matches the preferred style of the audience or organization.
When writing dates, always consider the context and audience for which the text is intended. For example, a formal letter or academic report in Europe, Asia, or Africa may require the British format, while an email or internal memo may be more appropriate for the international format.