The Correct Way to Write the Time and Date in English

There are several ways you can write the time in English, using both digits (numbers) and letters. Depending on the type of document you are writing, it is usually best to use only numbers as this makes it clearer for the reader. However, even when using numbers there are several differences, most of which relate to whether or not you use the 24 hour clock:

1. 15.00 is the same as 3 pm or three o’clock in the afternoon.
2. 12.00 is the same as 12 pm or midday.
3. 00.00 is the same as 12 am or midnight.

Remember, the use of the 24 hour clock is far more common in mainland Europe than in the UK.

There are also several rules for correctly writing the date in English, although these rules can change depending on whether you choose to use British or American English. Firstly, we shall look at the two general rules:

1. Always capitalize the names of the days – Monday, Tuesday, Friday etc.
2. Always capitalize the name of months – January, April, August, December

In American English the format of writing the date is Month, Day, Year, as in:

April 14, 2008

Notice that a comma separates the day from the year. In British English the format is Day, Month, Year, as in:

14 April 2008.

You notice that no comma is used here. When we write the day in full (Friday, Sunday etc) then in American English it is written as follows:

Friday, October 31, 1999

Whereas in British English, we write

Friday 31 October 1999.

Once again, no comma is used. Sometimes, when writing the date we use some abbreviations to denote ordinal numbers. We use ordinal number when we talk about the date or a fraction of something. An ordinal number is, for instance, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and so on. You will have noticed that when we say a date out loud we use ordinal numbers:

The fourth of July (July, 4 or 4 July)

Abbreviations of those ordinal numbers are as follow:

First – 1st, Second – 2nd, Third – 3rd, Fourth – 4th, Fifth – 5th, and Sixth – 6th(and so on), so we would write 4th(of) July.

It is not strictly necessary to use ordinal abbreviations when we write the date, but some people prefer to write:

6th September instead of 6 September. It is usually a question of style. Often, you will need to write the date only in numbers. In this case it is very important to remember whether you are using American or British systems. For example in American English you would write:

Month, Day, Year: 10/03/2001(3 October 2001).

In British English, the numerical date is always written as Day, Month, Year: 03/10/2001.

Regardless of whether you choose to use British or American English, the most important thing is to be clear and consistent. Dates and times are very important pieces of information, so make sure you write them correctly, whether in letters or numbers.

KJ Hutchings is the owner of KJ Language Services, providing proofreading, editing and writing services to businesses and students, in particular those who use English as a second language.

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