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.

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

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89 Comments on Writing Dates and Times

89 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.

      • Kevin Manzke says:

        Perhaps a way to relieve donmorberg’s and Angelo S.’s cognitive dissonance related to the use of an apostrophe when talking about dates (e.g. the 70’s), would be to think of it as a case of missing letters, as in the “o” in don’t.

        But, instead of only one letter missing, ALL the letters are missing. So, the Seventies is rendered 70’s because all eight letters before the “s” are dropped.

        The construct is required (one could argue) because there is no way to indicate a plural number with digits alone, so you must use the letter “s.” And because you are using digits to replace dropped letters, the apostrophe represent the fact the we’ve used a shortcut (like dropping the “o”) and is appropriate.

  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.”

    • We do agree with you; we don’t like it either. We express our preference more clearly in our Writing Numbers Rules 11 and 12.

      (Also, remember that ‘s can be a contraction for has as well as is.)

    • David says:

      I seem to remember an apostrophe being used to create certain plurals.

      Such as in a single letter: You should mind your p’s and q’s. There are four i’s in Mississippi.

      This does run in line with using is after numerals as well. Many 9’s are hidden in this image.

      Alas I am just a mathematician. Grammar is not my strength. I just wondered in seeking guidance on dates in the day-month-year format. I seem to remember direction in the past saying no comma or a comma after the day are both appropriate.

    • Marquis witt says:

      Yes, let’s be consistent: 80s is plural. It replaces the spelled word “eighties.”

  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.


    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?

  9. Luci says:

    Can i say: I thought you were going to LSU for 2PM?

  10. Elena says:

    Is it correct to write – We’re leaving on 23rd August – ? without THE and OF?

    • You could write either “We’re leaving the 23rd (or twenty-third, depending on your style guide) of August” or “We’re leaving August 23.”

      • Mary says:

        Could you please specify why do you omit ON in “We’re leaving the 23rd (or twenty-third, depending on your style guide) of August” or “We’re leaving August 23″? I often come across similar sentences, but I still can’t find any grammar rule explaining that (one of the reasons I actually visited this website but, again, didn’t find the answer). Would it be correct to write the above sentence with ON as well (We’re leaving ON the 23rd of August)?. Thank you in advance.

        • The Associated Press Stylebook says, “Do not use on before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence.” We agree with AP and recommend not overusing prepositions. That being said, writing “We’re leaving on the 23rd of August” would not be incorrect.

  11. judy deberry says:

    On a tombstone the date is shown Dec 14 with the date beneath and April 23 with the date beneath. Is a comma needed after the 14 and the 23 since the year is not on the same line?

  12. Wendy Womack says:

    My friend insists that one can say, “I’m going to the gym for 4:30 and then I might take a class there.” I maintain that one has to say “for a 4:30 class” or at least, “for a 4:30” implying a class or appointment. Who is right?

    • The following would be grammatically correct:
      I’m going to the gym at 4:30, and then I might take a class there.
      I’m going to the gym for a 4:30 class.
      I’m going to the gym for a 4:30
      is acceptable in an informal, most likely spoken, context.

  13. PAG says:

    I have been a proofreader for over 25 years. I just wanted to point out something in this post that is incorrect. Above it says:
    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.
    The last entry using “During the 1980’s” is incorrect. Talking about the collective years that make up the eighties, 1980s does not need an apostrophe because it is plural, not possessive. It is incorrect to use “1980’s.”

  14. Hazel.J says:

    What about when you are writing a sentence like “the party is at 9-12 p.m.” because the first number is a.m and the second number is p.m.? I’m not sure which term to use.
    Thank you!

    • We recommend changing the preposition at to from and using the word to instead of a hyphen. Also, it is clearer to use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m.
      The party is from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

  15. Noht says:

    Which is correct?
    A. 6th of April, 2018
    B. 6th of April 2018

  16. Amanda says:

    When writing out a date and time, which would be correct: March 26, 2018, at 10:14 a.m. or March 26, 2018 at 10:14 a.m.? My instinct is with the comma, but all of the online card companies drop the comma. Thanks!

    • Our Rule 9 of Commas says, “Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year, and—what most people forget!—always put one after the year, also.” Greeting cards, invitations, wedding announcements, and the like go by their own rules.

  17. Becky says:

    While writing a sentence ending in 2017-2018, the 2018 has to wrapped to next line. Do I just type 18 or 2018 at the beginning on the next line? I think 2018 but a coworker disagrees.

    • There is no rule regarding this situation, but we would recommend keeping 2018 intact for readability purposes if it must wrap to the next line. Another option could be to move the entire 2017-18 to the next line.

  18. Ellen says:

    Could you explain why people are leaving out the space between the time and the am or pm? I am seeing this a lot and it looks wrong to me, but you give it as an acceptable form above.

    • The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and some of the other leading style guides include a space between the numerals and the abbreviation. For clarity, we prefer that practice ourselves. However, we do acknowledge that there is a wide variation in how different books, newspapers, magazines, advertisers, etc. treat times. There are no strict rules governing this area, which now resides fully in the public domain where style has become subjective. We recommend adopting a style and sticking to it.

  19. Linda Brett Dorf says:

    For the year spans, is 2012-15 correct? Or should it be 2012-2015. Example: I lived in New York City from 2012-2015.


  20. Diane says:

    I’d like to know what is the correct way to write this beginning statement on a plaque.

    On this date, June 7, 1962 or On this date: June 7, 1962

  21. Brett Wilson says:

    Time zones were not covered in the article. I was hoping for clarification on time zone punctuation as part of a date and time. Perhaps a future revision could include such.

  22. Herb Nomura says:

    When writing a range of times and the beginning and ending time are both AM or PM, I think it’s clearer to just use one AM or PM instead of two,

    e.g., MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 7:00 TO 9:30 PM instead of MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 7:00 PM TO 9:30 PM.
    or MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 7:00-9:30 PM instead of MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 7:00 PM-9:30 PM.

    Then you don’t have to realize that they are both in the AM or PM.

    Is there a rule that says one must use both AM or PM for each time?

    Also, should one always use one style of am/a.m./AM on a page or document, as opposed to mixing some with am and some with AM?

    Thank you.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Is the comma after the year, January 1, 2018 below, correct or not?

    Our fiscal year is January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018.

  24. Anne Anthony says:

    When writing a date which is correct? 9/26/18 or 9/26/2018
    Is it acceptable to write 9/26/18 yet? Surely, no one could assume you mean 1918. Or do we have to wait another hundred years before using the shortcut?

    • All-numeral styles of writing dates are not recommended in formal writing except with certain dates that may be known that way, such as 9/11 for September 11, 2001. If you choose to use the all-numeral format for a date in informal writing, it is up to you to determine whether the century to which you’re referring is sufficiently clear. There are no hard-and-fast rules governing this area.

  25. Pat Lee says:

    When a date range or a time range is written without any prepositions, and use the hyphen, such as business hours information as seen at: https://www.apple.com/retail/infiniteloop/ , should spaces surround the hyphen?
    Personally, I like to see the spaces, (used on the Apple website), but grammarbook’s examples are all without spaces.

    • As we state in our Rules for Hyphens, we believe there should not be spaces around hyphens in formal prose. Since your example is more like a sign and is not a complete sentence, it might be acceptable to use spaces for business or marketing purposes. We understand the aesthetic of a space when showing a range that connects letters to numbers, as in your example, but for formal written documents we would recommend using to: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

  26. Antonia says:

    On a formal menu for a wedding – is it proper to write – December 08, 2018 or December 8, 2018
    Thank you

    • Wedding invitations, menus, and the like have their own sets of rules and styles and do not always follow the rules for formal writing. We don’t see any particular advantage to writing “December 08” vs. “December 8,” but the style is up to you

  27. Sarah says:

    What is correct?
    “We last meet in September, 2018.” or “We last meet in September 2018.”

  28. Janine says:

    What is correct in an American business letter?

    “Thank you for your inquiry on the 30th of June in which you requested information about our range of products.”
    “Thank you for your inquiry of 30th June in which you requested information about our range of products.”

    Also in a subject line for an email:

    “Your inquiry about on 30th of June” or “Your inquiry of 30th of June”

    I am German and home studying English at the moment, and I came across the problem with the date in American formal business letters. It is quite confusing to me.
    I would appreciate a little help. Thank you

    • Your first sentence is acceptable; however, we recommend simplifying as follows:
      “Thank you for your June 30 inquiry in which you requested information about our range of products.”
      The subject could be “Your June 30 inquiry.”

  29. Brenda says:

    Which is correct:
    Your December 18, 2018 letter, was received in my office…. OR
    Your December 18, 2018, letter was received …

    I know the rule says always after the year, but it seems awkward when date used as a reference.

  30. M says:

    In a novel, an author writes at the beginning of a paragraph: “At eight AM sharp, all my guests were present at the table.”

    Is there a better way to phrase the time? The large capitals seem out of place in the text.


    • The terms AM and PM are generally used with numerals. As the post states, “Some use numerals with the time of day when exact times are being emphasized.” Therefore, we recommend writing “At 8:00 AM sharp, all my guests were at the table” or “At 8:00 am sharp, all my guests were at the table.”

  31. Caro Davis says:

    Is the following correct:
    Scheduling is available M-Th 7:30am-4:30pm

    I think it should read:
    Scheduling is available Monday through Thursday from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm

    • As the post states, “There are a number of options for expressing date and time ranges.” Both examples are acceptable with added periods at the end of the sentences. The decision depends on how and where the sentence is to be used. For example, the first sentence might be preferred on a sign or in advertising, and the second example might be preferred in a formal context.

  32. John says:

    I have been having trouble finding the correct way to express a duration of time. For example, when a meeting is an hour and a half long it is expressed in French as “1h30” but this does not seem a correct rendering in English. I have not been able to find any reference as to how it should be written in English. Can you shed some light?

    • As we mention in the introduction to our Rules for Writing Numbers, this is a complex topic with many exceptions. You may or may not be happy to hear that “the correct way” may consist of numerous acceptable options, including one and a half hours, 1 1/2 hours, one hour and thirty minutes, 1 hour and 30 minutes, 1.5 hours, 90 minutes, etc.

  33. Jo says:

    Thanks for the article.
    Is it acceptable to write:
    On August 13-14, 1956
    I’ve seen this in articles. I’m guessing it means something happened between August 13 and 14, but the exact date isn’t known. Thanks.

    • The word on implies a single date; however, the hyphen indicates through. Therefore, the intention is not clear without seeing the full sentence in context.

      • Jo says:

        Here are two examples:

        On the night of August 13-14, 1956, four UFOs were sighted.
        An Inaugural Symposium was held at the fledgeling WHNRC on August 13-14, 1981.

        • The first example appears to be referring to a single nighttime. A clearer expression would be: During the night of August 13-14, 1956, four UFOs were sighted.
          For the second sentence we recommend An inaugural symposium was held August 13-14, 1981, at the fledgling WNHRC.

  34. Cheryl marsh says:

    I proofread for court reporters, so it has to be verbatim. I just came across, it was the ’18-19 school year. Did I do this right or should there be another apostrophe before the 19?

  35. Wali says:

    When writing an academic paper of high formality, is it acceptable to apply the rules of decades?

    As in the examples:

    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.

    Or is there one of them I should lean towards in an attempt to sound more formal?

    • Although they are all grammatically acceptable, we prefer “During the 1980s, the world’s economy grew.” It’s not just that it’s more formal sounding, but it is specific regarding the century you’re referring to, and the apostrophe is simply not necessary.

  36. Tim says:

    Do you repeat the year if a range of dates occurs in the same year? Is it “between Sept. 5, 2018, and Nov. 30, 2018,” or is it “between Sept. 5 and Nov. 30, 2018”? Thank you.

  37. Lori Yeomans says:

    I have a dilemma- I am embroidering birth info onto quilt squares, and need to know the correct spellings for 12:00 AM as well as 12:05 AM. Since they are twins, I would like to use the same technique for both of them, as well as match the wording on an existing square that reads “Nine: twelve pm.” (Of which the latter is probably incorrect.)

    Would “Twelve o’clock a.m.” and “Twelve o’ five a.m.” be acceptable?

    Or should I use the standard “12:00 a.m.” and “12:05 a.m.”?

    I hope this makes sense!

    • The rules in this post apply to writing formal prose. Your situation is quite different, and these rules might not be appropriate because of the importance of aesthetics and consistency within the quilt. That being said, writing “Nine: twelve pm” is, while creative, highly unusual (well, okay, to use your word: incorrect). We recommend writing exact times using numerals as writing them out in words can become cumbersome. But you may continue to write them out in words if you wish. Grammatically preferred would be midnight and 12:05 am (or a.m., AM, A.M.), but for the purposes of a quilt you may take liberties: twelve midnight, 12 am, 12:00 am for the first one. For the second: five after midnight, five after twelve midnight, five minutes after midnight, 12:05 am, etc.

  38. Monica Wittstock says:

    I have a question. I’m writing a report for work. The copyeditor has inserted a comma after the year 2018 in every instance of this sentence:

    “Donations in this list were received from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.”

    It was written

    “Donations in this list were received from July 1 2018 through June 30, 2019.”

    Which way is correct?

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