Writing Dates and Times



Rule: The following examples apply when using dates:

The meeting is scheduled for June 30.
The meeting is scheduled for the 30th of June.
We have had tricks played on us on April 1.
The 1st of April puts some people on edge. (Some prefer to write it out: The first of April)

Rule: There are differing policies for expressing decades using numerals. Some write the 1980s and the ’80s, others write the 1980’s and the 80’s. However, using two apostrophes (the ’80’s) is awkward and is not recommended.

Correct:
During the ’80s, the world’s economy grew.
During the 1980s, the world’s economy grew.
During the 1980’s, the world’s economy grew.

Not Advised:
During the ’80’s, the world’s economy grew.

Rule: Some writers spell out the time of day, others prefer numbers.

Example: She gets up at four thirty before the baby wakes up.
Example: The baby wakes up at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Rule: Some use numerals with the time of day when exact times are being emphasized.

Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
Example: Please arrive by 12:30 p.m. sharp.

Rule: It is clearer to use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m.

Note: You may use AM and PM, A.M. and P.M., am and pm, or a.m. and p.m.
Some put a space after the numeral, others do not.

Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22am.
Example: Please arrive by 12:30 P.M. sharp.

Rule: As you will see in the following examples, there are a number of options for expressing date and time ranges. Take care to express the ranges clearly, and be consistent.

Example (using an en dash in accordance with The Chicago Manual of Style. The en dash indicates up to and including, or through):
The fair will take place August 31–September 5.

Example (using a hyphen in accordance with The Associated Press Stylebook):
The fair will take place August 31-September 5.

Example (reasonably clear): The fair will take place from August 31 to September 5. Most people would interpret that the fair will begin on August 31 and extend to and including September 5. However, consider this sentence:

We will be visiting from August 31 to September 5.
Are the visitors departing on September 5 or staying through September 5?

Example (clear): We will be visiting from August 31 through September 5.

Note: Do not use a hyphen or en dash when from or between is used before the first date or time.

Incorrect example: We will be visiting on August 31, 2017, from 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Examples (exact beginning and end dates not important):
The Straus family lived in the neighborhood from 1949 to 2012. (from followed by to)
The Straus family lived in the neighborhood between 1949 and 2012. (between followed by and)

Example (with exact dates): The Straus family lived in the neighborhood from January 1, 1949, to October 18, 2012.

 

Pop Quiz:
Correct or Incorrect?

1. The last outbreak of smallpox occurred in the late seventy’s.
2. Can you get here by 12:00 midnight?
3. Please deliver the package by August 1st.
4. Her flight leaves at 5:00 a.m. in the morning.
5. The market is open from 9 am to 9 p.m.
6. Traffic will be detoured on Saturday, April 22, from 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. The last outbreak of smallpox occurred in the late seventies.
2. Can you get here by midnight? (leave out 12:00)
3. Please deliver the package by August 1. (OR by the first of August OR by the 1st of August)
4. “5:00 a.m. in the morning” is redundant. Leave out one or the other:
Her flight leaves at 5:00 a.m. OR Her flight leaves at 5:00 in the morning.
5. The market is open from 9 am to 9 pm. OR 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
6. Traffic will be detoured on Saturday, April 22, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. OR between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. OR Traffic will be detoured on Saturday, April 22, 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. OR 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. OR use pm, PM, or P.M.

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at 8:54 am

16 Comments on Writing Dates and Times

16 responses to “Writing Dates and Times”

  1. Carolyn Welcome says:

    You write “…..at 5 o’clock.” Is it incorrect to write “at five o’clock” or is that also acceptable?

  2. @donmorberg says:

    I can’t figure out what makes your third example correct: “During the 1980’s, the world’s economy grew.”
    An apostrophe is inserted when something is removed (the o from don’t, the un from ’til) or in a possessive. Why would putting one is 1980s be correct?
    I know random apostrophe insertion is common among those who don’t know a possessive from a possum, but that don’t make it right.

    • We understand your concern and don’t particularly like that apostrophe either; however, up until sometime in the later 20th century, constructions like the 1970’s and the 70’s were the preference of many distinguished editors. Perhaps we’ll be able to drop it at some point in the future.

  3. Andy M. says:

    Example: The baby wakes up at 5 o’clock in the morning.
    As the number is less than ten, five should be spelled out.

    • Writing numbers is a minefield. As we mention in our rules for Writing Numbers, it is a complex topic with many exceptions. Your comment that a number less than ten should be spelled out is consistent with guidance in The Associated Press Stylebook. However, be aware that AP makes an exception for times, stating “use figures except for noon and midnight.” Be consistent in your own writing, and you’ll be fine.

  4. Lee M. says:

    Thanks for your great article on dates and times.

    Something that annoys me has to do with how some people speak of a range of items (including dates, times, and other measures), combining the two forms “between this and that” and “from this to that.”

    These people will say, “It should arrive between Monday to Friday,” or, “The cost will be between five dollars to seven dollars.”

    I believe that is incorrect, and that the correct forms are, “It should arrive between Monday and Friday,” and, “The cost will be between five dollars and seven dollars.”

    I rarely hear the form, “From this and that,” but I often hear “Between this to that.”

    Ugh. Please straighten us all out!

    • We agree with you. We mentioned the proper way to express these ranges in the next to last set of examples where we advise “from followed by to” and “between followed by and.”

      We’ll consider expanding on this topic in a future e-newsletter.

      Thank you for the kind words.

  5. Angelo S. says:

    I believe that using apostrophes to denote decades as in: the 1980’s, the 1940’s, etc. is incorrect and not acceptable as an alternate. The ‘s is never used anywhere else in the English language to denote plurality. Why should be used here? There is a perfectly acceptable and consistent way to show the plural: the use of a final “S”. This is also how I was taught in grammar school and high school.

    To me, the use of the apostrophe is wrong because it is inconsistent. The ‘s should only be used in contractions meaning is, and for possession of a singular noun or name. Doing otherwise is confusing and unnecessary.

    I think that writing 1980’s, etc., using an apostrophe is just another example of grammar unjustifiably absorbing and adopting an incorrect practice because it is seemingly ubiquitous: “Many do it that way” or “I have seen it done that way in professional publications.”

  6. Donna W. says:

    Wouldn’t you have a double period when A.M. ends the sentence? Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22 a.m..

  7. Barbara says:

    Is a comma used after the year when writing a date as follows:

    22th day of March A. D. 2017 will be the fist day of Spring.

  8. YURI CAVALCANTE CALIL says:

    Is it necessarily incorrect so say April 1st? I’ve been writing this my whole life and not once was I corrected, is it a grave offense or is it okay?

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