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A Date with Dates

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Figuring out which date format to use can be tricky. We’ll teach about the different date formats, and how to properly punctuate dates and years.

Date Formats
Different countries use different date formats.
When writing dates, remember that.

  • Different countries use different formats. While the majority of the world uses day/month/year, the United States uses month/day/year, and some countries in Asia use year/month/day.
  • When using the month/day/year format, commas come after the day and the year in a sentence. If using a long-form date, also place a comma after the day of the week.
      On Friday, February 11, 2022, I’ll be heading to Mexico.
  • When writing years, do not use an apostrophe unless you’re abbreviating a certain decade.
    • She said that the 1970s were the happiest years of her life.
      She said that the ’70s were the happiest years of her life.

Formatting dates correctly is not as easy as it seems. There are rules to follow, regional differences to consider, and commas that have to be placed in the correct spot. Figuring this out can feel as overwhelming as realizing a new year has dawned, and you have yet to reach any of your goals from last year.

Don’t fret. This blog will teach you about the different date formats, how to properly punctuate dates and years, and standard practices that you should adhere to when writing dates.


Day/Month/Year or Month/Day/Year

When choosing which format to follow when writing dates, the most important thing to keep in mind is your audience. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re reading a date, it would be wise to consider the writer.

In the United States, dates are formatted as month/day/year:

June 6, 2003
06/06/2003

This is a unique format, seeing as the majority of other countries—like the UK, Australia, and New Zealand—follow the day/month/year format:

16 December 1998
16/12/1998

There is another format used for more technical purposes, and by some countries in Asia (e.g., Japan, China, South Korea, Iran, etc.), and that’s the year/month/day format:

2016/11/15

When writing dates, it is critical to remain consistent and to be sure of the date format your reader is accustomed to. This is especially important if you’re doing business internationally. For example, if you’re working from the United States and invite a potential client from Britain to a Zoom meeting on 07/06/2022, it’s possible that they may show up on June 7, 2022 and think that you have forgotten all about the meeting.

Quick Tips

  • It’s important to note that in 1988, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set a global standard numeric date format as YYYY-MM-DD (2022-01-17). Although many countries have adopted this as their official date format, many writers still use the abbreviated formats that are no longer recommended.
  • Dates are usually written using slashes, but hyphens (-) and dots (.) are also acceptable.
  • When writing dates in American English and in the month/day/year format, use cardinal numbers (three, four, five) and not ordinal numbers (third, fourth, fifth).
Remain consistern when using date formats.
When using date formats, remain consistent. And if you’re not sure which format is being used, ask.

Commas in Dates

Comma placement depends on which date format you’re using. If you’re writing to someone in the United States, and you’re using the month/day/year format, make sure to include a comma after the day and year.

They released the seal on August 10, 2019, after months of rehabilitation.

Add a comma after the day of the week, if you’re including it in the sentence.

Her daughter was born on Sunday, May 9, 1993.

On the other hand, if you’re writing a date using the day/month/year format, then do not use a comma.

He took his first flight on 15 February 2018.

Do not add a comma if you’re writing only a month and year.

Toys “R” Us closed its doors in June 2018.

Writing Years

When completely writing out decades, do not use an apostrophe because that would denote a possessive.

The internet started becoming popular during the 1990s.

The internet started becoming popular during the 1990’s.

However, decades can also be shortened to two digits, and using an apostrophe at the beginning or not is a stylistic choice that varies.

The 80s were her favorite decade of music.

The ’80s were her favorite decade of music.

Remember to use an apostrophe, and not an opening single quotation mark.

The ‘80s were her favorite decade of music.

When writing centuries, do not use an apostrophe, as this would also wrongly show a possessive.

Some say that the 1700s produced some of the most impactful literature of all time.

Some say that the 1700’s produced some of the most impactful literature of all time.

Another rule to keep in mind when writing years is that if at the beginning of the sentence, the year should be written out completely. This is because it is considered “bad style” to start a sentence with numerals.

Nineteen ninety-one was the year she finally returned home.

It might be frustrating trying to remember all these rules about writing dates correctly. However, it’s critical to know them, especially if you’re writing to an international audience.

Luckily, LanguageTool can remember all these pesky rules for you and fix any errors and inconsistencies in your writing. This online editor can also correct your spelling and grammar mistakes, provide synonyms, and offer suggestions to elevate your writing.


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