It is important to be able to correctly write dates and times in English, especially when sending important correspondences. Any misunderstanding about a date or time for a meeting, for example, can have unwanted consequences and appear unprofessional. So, in order to avoid any errors, you can follow these rules for writing dates and times in English.
There are several ways to write a date:
The meeting will be held on 2 February.
The meeting is scheduled for 2nd of February.
Christmas day is on 25th December.
The 1st of April is April Fool’s Day.
The above examples structure the dates according to British English rules. In American English, dates can be written a little differently:
My birthday is on March 25.
The meeting is on February 4.
You will see that the month is written before the day. Note also that ordinal numbers are used when we describe dates (first, second, third and so on). The ordinal numbers are abbreviated as follows:
First – “1st”
Second – “2nd”
Third – “3rd”
Fourth – “4th”, and so on.
When writing about decades, you can spell them in full in lower case:
During the nineties, there were many job losses in Europe.
The sixties was a great decade for music and fashion.
You can, of course, use only numbers when writing decades. There is an important rule for doing so and it involves the use of an apostrophe (’). As in the examples above (sixties, nineties) you do not use an apostrophe between the year and the “s” when writing a decade in numerals:
In the 1990s, there was high unemployment in Europe.
In the 1960s, there were lots of new pop bands.
However, when you write the decade with an incomplete numeral, you need to use the apostrophe in place of the first two missing numbers:
During the ‘90s, there were lots of people without jobs.
During the ‘60s, the Beatles had lots of hit records.
It is incorrect to write:
During the ‘90’s, people had no jobs.
During the ‘60’s, people bought lots of Beatles records.
There is one crucial circumstance when you do use the apostrophe and that is when the date becomes and adjective describing a noun:
I like 1960’s music (music of the 1960s).
I study 1920’s fashion (the fashion of the 1920s).
When you use words to spell out the time of day, you need to also write out in full the quarter and half hours. If you use “o’clock”, the number is always spelled out in full:
She starts work at nine o’clock in the morning every day.
He studies from five thirty until seven thirty in the evening OR He studies from half past five until half past seven in the evening.
What time is it? It’s three fifteen OR It is a quarter past three.
For clarity, it is best to use numerals when you need to emphasize exact times, regardless of whether you use the 12- or 24-hour clock:
The train arrives at 10.04 a.m. (a.m. is morning/before noon – ante meridian).
His flight departs at 13.40 p.m. (p.m. is afternoon/after noon – post meridian).
You can also write 10.04 AM and 13.40 PM.
When referring to 12.00 a.m. or 12.00 p.m., it is better to use noon/midday or midnight.
Don't forget: being clear and concise is the most important thing when writing dates and times.
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