Do you know the grammatically correct way to write a date? It can be a tricky affair, especially, when you are writing a date in an invitation card or a formal document. Is a comma needed? Or do you have to make use of a period? What comes first, the month or the date? Most of us get confused about using punctuation when writing dates. Therefore, we decided to write this article to help you learn the grammatically correct way of writing dates.
There are rules in English grammar that state how to write a date. Although, you may be amused to know that grammar rules apply to something as simple as writing a date, but don’t ignore to learn the right use.
You may put yourself in a difficult situation if you write a date incorrectly, for instance, for an important meeting or for your wedding invitation. Therefore, it is better to be perfect when it comes to writing a date. Here is a simple guideline on how to write grammatically correct dates.
We make use of ordinal and cardinal numbers when writing dates. We use ordinal numbers when we write in format – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on. We make use of cardinal numbers when we write in format – 1, 2, and 3 and so on. When writing in American English, the right way to write a date is: May 1, 2016.
The month always comes before the date and year.But, in a statement, you have to use ordinal numbers first and write. For example: The seminar will be held on the third of May 2016.
Comma – Most of us are confused with the usage of punctuations in dates. In the example above, it is clear that a comma is used before the year. However, in a statement, it is written as follows:
We invite you to join us on May 1, 2016 (,) for celebrations.
It is acceptable to add a comma after the year, but even if you don’t add, it is grammatically correct.
Apostrophe – When we abbreviate years, instead of writing 1970, you can write ‘70s. Most of us tend to use an apostrophe when we write the full form – 1970’s. However, this is an incorrect way to write and the correct way is 1970s.
Hope the above examples have cleared your concept on writing dates. For more tips and tricks to Learn English, you can join an online spoken English class.
How to write dates in British and American English
Calendar dates can be written in a wide variety of ways in English, and the choice often depends on formal or informal writing, personal style and whether you are writing British or American English. Whatever the format, in British English, dates are usually written in the order day – month – year, while in American English they are written month – day – year.
This article covers all the common ways to write dates for each region.
For British English, day followed by month followed by year, the 13th day of the month April, year 2014, might be written in full (in order of complexity):
- 13 April
- 13 April 2014
- 13th April 2014
- the 13th of April 2014
- the 13th of April, 2014,
These are all possible, and a matter of choice. The more complicated the style of date, the more formal it is.
- In the later examples, the and of are optional, but if you do use them you must add both the and of; it would be incorrect to say only 13th of April or the 13th April.
- In British English, commas are not necessary (although can be used to separate month an year, as a matter of style).
- If you wish to add the name of the day, it should come before the date, and should either be separated by a comma or joined by the and of.
- Sunday, 13 April 2014
- Sunday the 13th of April, 2014
Writing Dates in American English
In American English, the month comes before the day, which means you cannot use of and rarely use ordinal numbers (adding st, nd, rd, th). Commas should also be used to separate the day and year, and again the name of the day should come at the beginning. The date should therefore be written:
- April 13
- April 13, 2014
- Sunday, April 13, 2014
April the 13th or April 13th are not incorrect, but are much less common now.
Numerical date formats
In both British and American English, the date can be written in abbreviated forms, either as a group of numbers (separated by hyphens, slashes or periods), or with the first few letters of the month. The date should be in day – month – year or month – day – year format depending on British or American use.
British Abbreviated Dates
There are several uses of the comma that can best be described as conventional or mechanical. The use or omission of the comma is well established, and writers need only to apply the rules.
Most authorities, including The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, recommend a comma after the first digit of a four-digit number. The exceptions include years, page numbers, and street addresses.
We sold 1,270 rare books last year; the most expensive sold for $5,255.
On page 1270 of the report, his address is listed as 5255 Ocean View Drive as of February 5, 2008.
The trend with these labels is to omit the comma.
David White Jr. is the father of David White III.
He was formerly a senior vice president at Apple Inc.
When a degree or certification is shown after a person’s name, it should be set off with commas.
The report was prepared by Christopher Smith, PhD.
Jane Jones, Esq., has joined the board of directors.
Tom Roberts Jr., MD, FACS, will be the keynote speaker at next year’s conference.
When directly addressing someone, the person’s name or title should be set off with commas.
- We could not have done it without you, Lisa.
- Thank you, Governor, for your support.
- Lori, please stop by my office before you leave for the day.
When a date consists of the day of the month followed by the year, the day of the month should be followed by a comma. When the day of the week is provided before the month, the day of the week should be followed by a comma.
When the date appears in the middle of a sentence, commas should appear both before and after the year.
The store closed its doors for good on Wednesday, October 15, 1958.
Her arrival on Monday, April 11, 1988, was considered a turning point for the company.
When a date is used as an adjective, most authorities require a comma following the year. Yet at least one significant authority (Bryan Garner, in his fourth edition of Garner's Modern English Usage) omits it. Given the uncertainty, it is best to recast the sentence.
The July 10, 2011, meeting was canceled due to a hurricane watch.
The meeting scheduled for July 10, 2011, was canceled due to a hurricane watch.
No comma is used between the month and the year when they are the only two elements in the date.
The store closed its doors for good in October 1958.
The store closed its doors for good in October, 1958.
The British style, sometimes used by American writers, reverses the month and day, which eliminates the need for a comma. (See also the essay discussing British and American usage.)
Her arrival on 11 April 1988 was considered a turning point for the company.
Commas should be used to separate geographic elements, as in the examples below. The final geographic element should also be followed by a comma when it appears in the middle of a sentence.
- The mayor of New York was the first guest to arrive; the mayor of Athens, Georgia, was the last to arrive.
- His family moved from Bristol, England, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when he was eight.
- The company is headquartered in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Though not necessarily mechanical, the use of commas in lists is well established. In this usage, the comma separates a series of words, phrases, or independent clauses.
Do not place a comma after the last item in the list (see fourth example below) unless the structure of the sentence otherwise requires it (see third example below, in which the comma after audience is required to separate an introductory dependent clause from the main clause).
- For your entree, you may choose vegetarian pasta, beef, chicken, or salmon.
- Jane will bring the food, Jose will bring the drinks, John will bring the music, and Jackie will bring the cops.
- With dignity, grace, and a tremendous empathy for his audience, he delivered the most moving eulogy.
- I am taking art history, Russian literature, microeconomics, and macroeconomics next semester.
The final comma in a list of items is known as an Oxford comma or serial comma. Some writers omit it, but doing so can cause confusion. In the example immediately above, the serial comma makes it clear that the writer is taking two separate economics courses next semester.
Omitting the serial comma makes this unclear. Is it one course covering both microeconomics and macroeconomics, or is it two separate courses? Even though not all sentences will be unclear with the omission of the serial comma, its consistent use is a good habit.
(See also the essay on style.)
When a noun is modified by more than one adjective, each of which independently modifies the noun, the adjectives should be separated by a comma. In this usage, the comma substitutes for the conjunction and.
The wine offered a fragrant, captivating bouquet.
It was a long, noisy, nauseating flight.
When there are three or more modifying adjectives, it is perfectly acceptable to treat them as a conventional list and include the conjunction and.
It was a long, noisy, and nauseating flight.
If sequential adjectives do not individually modify a noun, they should not be separated by a comma.
In the example below, the balloon is bright red, not bright and red.
He held a bright red balloon.
He held a bright, red balloon.
When an adjective or adverb is repeated for emphasis, a comma is required.
This is a very, very violent movie.
This is a very very violent movie.
After lists, the most important function of the comma is to set off nonrestrictive or nonessential information.
Compare the two sentences below, in which the presence or absence of a comma indicates important information.
I will give the document to my brother, Tom.
Explanation: The writer has only one brother. The brother's name is (grammatically) nonessential and therefore set off with a comma.
I will give the document to my brother Tom.
Explanation: The writer has more than one brother. In this case, the specific brother—Tom—is essential information and should not be set off with a comma.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter has been made into several movies.
Explanation: Hawthorne wrote more than one novel.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, has been made into several movies.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first novel, Fanshawe, was published anonymously in 1828.
Explanation: Hawthorne had only one first novel.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first novel Fanshawe was published anonymously in 1828.
When an explanation or definition occurs as an appositive, it should be set off with commas.
Mary Smith, a staff writer at the Times, recently wrote a book on that subject.
The building’s window placement, referred to by architects as fenestration, is among its most distinctive features.
These words are frequently misused. That serves as a restrictive pronoun and therefore does not take a comma.
John’s cars that are leased are never kept clean.
Explanation: In this case, the dirty cars are specifically those that John leased; John might have non-leased cars that are kept clean.
Which serves as a nonrestrictive pronoun and therefore requires a comma.
John’s cars, which are leased, are never kept clean.
Explanation: In this case, all of John’s cars are dirty. The fact that those cars are leased is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
When a nonessential word or phrase occurs in the middle of a sentence, it should be set off with commas.
Your work has been, frankly, awful.
The hotel, once we finally found it, was very nice.
When a word or phrase occurs at the beginning of a sentence, a comma should usually separate it from the main clause.
- Yes, we expect to attend the Christmas party.
- No, you shouldn’t respond to a rhetorical question.
- Honestly, why would you ever think that?
- To be honest, I didn’t enjoy the food.
- In my opinion, the movie was more compelling than the book.
When a word or phrase follows the main clause at the end of a sentence, it should normally be set off with a comma.
- I found the painting rather dull, to be honest.
- You will be joining us for dinner, won’t you?
- Leave some food for me, please.
- We will not be attending the reception, however.
When a sentence ends with an adverb that is essential to the meaning of the sentence, the adverb should not be set off with a comma.
We visited Berlin too.
We took the train instead.
This is where things get tricky. Mastering the proper use of the comma in these situations is impossible without at least some understanding of grammar. The rules are easiest to learn and deploy if you first understand four common sentence types: compound, simple, complex, and compound-complex.
A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction. Independent clauses are those that can stand alone as complete sentences. The most common coordinating conjunctions are and, but, and or. In certain cases, nor, yet, so, and for act as coordinating conjunctions.
Rule: Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses.
- She purchased the car, but she declined the extended warranty.
- The prime minister’s plan seemed quickly and sloppily put together, and the opposition party immediately attacked it.
- Are you traveling in first class, or does your employer limit you to business class on international flights?
- I lost my job, so I can’t afford to go to Europe this summer.
Exception to the rule: When the independent clauses are closely connected and short, you may omit the comma.
Elizabeth flew to the conference and Nancy drove.
A simple sentence contains only one independent clause and no dependent clauses. When a simple sentence contains a conjunction, you might be tempted to insert a comma before the conjunction, as you do with a compound sentence. With a simple sentence, however, the general rule is to omit the comma.
Rule: Do not use a comma before a coordinating conjunction if the sentence contains only one independent clause.
She purchased the car but not the extended warranty.
Are you traveling in first class or in business class?
Exception to the rule: If omitting the comma leads to confusion or lack of clarity, insert the comma.
The alumni’s fundraising was better this year than last, and better than expected.
How to Write Dates Correctly in English
How to Write Centuries
Here’s a tip: When writing about whole centuries, do not use an apostrophe before s. Centuries are plurals, not possessives.
For example, when we write the 1800s, we are referring to all the years from 1800 to 1899. Within that range are one hundred discrete years; that is, more than one: a plural. We can also refer to those years collectively as the nineteenth century in all lowercase letters.
Women often wore bonnets in the 1800’s.
Women often wore bonnets in the 1800s.
Women often wore bonnets in the eighteen hundreds.
Women often wore bonnets in the Nineteenth Century.
Women often wore bonnets in the nineteenth century.
How to Write Decades
Here’s a tip: Decades should be written as two-digit numbers with an apostrophe before them and an s after them (e.g., ’90s). When in doubt, write it out. You can write the entire decade in numerals with an s after it (e.g., 1990s), or write out the words (e.g., the nineties).
This is the way to think about writing decades using numbers: they are both abbreviations and plurals. A shorter way of saying “My mother was born in the 1940s” is “My mother was born in the ’40s.
” The apostrophe (not an opening single quotation mark) indicates where the two century digits would be, had they been included.
There is no need to put an apostrophe between the zero and the s—that would incorrectly indicate a possessive.
Writing Dates and Times – Grammar and Punctuation
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.
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.
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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99 Comments on Writing Dates and Times
How to Write the Date in a Document | Proofed’s Writing Tips
In an era of calendar apps, we don’t have to write the date down often. But this does mean that it’s easy to forget the rules for writing dates in different places. It’s lucky, then, that we’re here to help!
Writing the Date in Full
In formal writing, always write the date in full when it is part of a sentence. This will usually involve giving the day of the month, the month, and the year:
The meeting will take place on April 21, 2019.
Note that the year follows after a comma. You can, however, use a few different formats. This can include omitting the year or adding the day of the week. In addition, you can use ordinal instead of cardinal numbers when writing the date out in full with the day before the month:
- Thursday, October 3
- Tuesday, August 6, 2019
- The 21st of April, 2019
The letters that follow the numbers above are a little old fashioned, but they are not incorrect. You may also see these numbers formatted as superscript. Whichever date format you use, however, make sure to apply it consistently for all dates in your document.
Abbreviating the Date
In less formal writing, or when the date is not part of the main text in a document, you can abbreviate the month to save space. For instance, “August 20, 2019” could be abbreviated to “Aug. 20, 2019.” The same can be done with days (e.g., “Tuesday” becomes “Tue.”).
Typically, the first three letters are used as the abbreviation for any day or month. However, some style guides (e.g., MLA) recommend only doing this for months with more than five letters.
Writing the Date as Numerals
You can also write the date as numerals instead of words. The format to use here is month/day/year. There are, however, a number of ways to do this. Variations include:
- Whether to put a “0” before single-digit months and days
- Whether to write the year in full or just the last two digits
- How to punctuate the date
For example, we could write March 4, 2019 in any of the following ways:
A variety of different styles may be used for formal invitations. The following style should be used in all other print and electronic communications.
For dates, use 1, 2, 3, 4, not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. Write “Reservations are due July 27,” not “Reservations are due July 27th.”
Do not abbreviate days of the week.
Do not abbreviate months of the year when they appear by themselves or with a year (December 2012). March, April, May, June and July are never abbreviated in text, but the remaining months are when they are followed by a date (Jan. 27), and are correctly abbreviated Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.
CorrectThe semester begins in September.The semester begins in September 2012.The semester begins Sept. 4.The semester begins Tuesday, Sept. 4.
The semester begins Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.
If only the month and year are used, do not use commas. Do not use the word “of” between the month and the year.
Use: We met in December 2011 (not December of 2011).
Appositives and phrases introduced by a comma must always be closed by a comma (or period at the end of a sentence).
Use: The meeting was held Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Fetzer Center.Note the commas preceding and following Sept. 19.
Use:They were married May 14, 2012, in Chicago.Note the commas preceding and following 2012.
Be concise and consistent
When to include the year
Include the year only if it is different from the present year (the year in which the publication or correspondence is dated) and always if the year is different from the present year.
Avoid using “last” and “next”
Last has several meanings and its use in reference to time can be confusing. The phrase “during the last month” can mean either “during the previous month” or “during the final month.” Previous, past, and final have more specific meanings and should be used in place of last. Similarly, the word next also can be confusing and should be avoided.
Make your meaning clear
A week can be defined as a specific seven-day period or as any seven consecutive days. A month can be defined as a specific month of the calendar or as any period of 30 consecutive days. A year can be defined as a specific calendar year or fiscal year or as any period of 365 consecutive days.
If you write, “During the past year, the University raised $17.
5 million,” do you mean during the previous calendar year, or during the previous fiscal year, or during the 365 days immediately preceding the date of your writing? If you write “During 2011,” or “During the 2011-12 fiscal year,” or “During the past 12 months,” or “From April 2011 through March 2012,” the period covered is more clearly defined.
Fiscal and academic years
For academic and fiscal years, use 2011-12, not 2011-2012. The single exception to this rule is at the end of a century, for example, 1999-2000.
For decades, use 1960s, 1990s or use '60s, '90s (no apostrophe before the s).
Can you believe it's already 2016? Another year gone. Since New Year's gets people thinking about the date, I'll answer a few date-related questions.
Here's a question from a long time ago from a listener named Michael to get us started. (It will seem as if he's getting a little off track, but it will all make sense in a minute.)
[Listener question about dates and British English in wedding invitations.]
The reason Michael's question about British English in wedding invitations is relevant to how to pronounce dates is that as a general rule the year is pronounced “two thousand AND sixteen” in Britain and “two thousand sixteen” in America (1). That's the general rule; it's quite common to hear people use the and in America, although from the number of e-mail messages I get complaining about it, I'd say a lot of Americans have been taught that it's wrong.