How to Write Dates Correctly

Summary

To write the exact date, spell out the month, and write the day and the year in numerals. The American format is month-day-year, with a comma between day and year. In British style, which is day-month-year, no comma is needed between month and year.

Example
  • American: The First World War ended on November 11, 1918.
  • British: The First World War ended on 11 November 1918.

Don’t use ordinal numbers in dates in formal texts.

Example
  • Poor: November 11th, 1918
    Better: November 11, 1918

To indicate only month and year, write the month in words and the year in figures. Don’t insert a comma between the two.

Example
  • The war ended in November 1918.

To specify the day alone, write it as an ordinal number.

Example
  • Our flight is booked for the eleventh (or 11th).

Dates

To indicate the date, you may write the exact date or specify just the month, day, or year. Dates are written differently in American and British style. Depending on the text, numerals or words may be used. In formal writing, the date is generally written in full, but it may be abbreviated when needed.

Examples
  • The war ended on September 2, 1945.
  • Lulu’s birthday is on August 3.
  • The treaty was signed on 11 December 1993.
  • We leave on the twenty-second.
  • We visited Spain in July 1999.
  • Accessed: Feb. 21, 2021
  • Signed: 5/5/21

In this article, we discuss how to write the date in various styles of writing.

Day, month, year

The American date format is month-day-year. In running text, spell out the month, and write the day and year in numerals. Use commas to separate day and year. Don’t use ordinals (st, nd, rd, th).

Examples
  • The Declaration of Independence was issued on July 4, 1776.
  • They were married on October 25, 2019, on a beach in the Maldives.
  • On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden became president of the United States.
Caution

To set off the year, use commas in pairs: a comma must appear not just before but also after the year.

Example
  • Incorrect: It was on August 14, 1945 that an armistice was finally declared.
    Correct: It was on August 14, 1945, that an armistice was finally declared.

The British date format is day-month-year. The day and year are written in numerals, and the month is spelled out. No comma is needed between month and year. This system is also followed in much of Europe and the rest of the world.

Examples
  • On 15 August 1947, India gained independence from Britain.
  • The Channel Tunnel opened on 6 May 1992, linking London and Paris by rail.
  • The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.

Month and year

When only month and year are specified, the month appears before the year. No comma is needed between the two.

Examples
  • Twitter was founded in March 2006 and launched later that year.
  • In January 2020, reports of a new respiratory virus emerged from China.
  • Farley first lost the lottery in November 1997.
Tip

The preposition “of” between month and year is unnecessary and omitted in formal writing.

Example
  • This report was originally published in May of 2015.

Day and month

When it is clear which year is being referred to, you may indicate only day and month. Spell out the month, and write the day in numerals. Remember that day follows month in American usage. Don’t use ordinal numbers (st, nd, rd, th).

Examples
  • Her birthday is November 23.
  • The last day to submit your applications is February 10.
  • On May 11 this year, our astronauts landed on Venus.

In British and other European writing, the day appears before the month.

Examples
  • My daughter was born on 23 November last year.
  • The deadline is 10 February.
  • On 11 May this year, our astronauts landed on Mars.
Note

The use of ordinal numbers (st, nd, rd, th) in dates is unnecessary. Avoid it in formal writing.

Example
  • Poor: The Durandians landed on July 19th at 3 p.m.
    Better: The Durandians landed on July 19 at 3 p.m.

In creative and other informal writing, the day and the month are often shown in words.

Example
  • They were married on the nineteenth of September last year.

The day alone

When only the day is mentioned, spell out single-digit numbers. Two-digit days may be either spelled out or written in numerals. Use ordinal numbers (st, nd, rd, th).

Examples
  • We woke up early on the morning of the fifth.
  • We’ll reach on the sixteenth (or the 16th).
Tip

Style guides differ in their recommendations on whether to write numbers in numerals or words. Numbers under 10 are generally spelled out. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends spelling out two-digit numbers as well, while the AP Stylebook and APA Publication Manual suggest using figures for numbers from 10 onward.

When using figures, don’t set the ordinal in superscript (16th, not 16th).

Date with day of the week

To show a day of the week alongside a date, write the day followed by a comma, and then write the date.

Examples
  • American: The apocalypse was expected to happen on Saturday, May 21, 2011.
  • British: The conference starts on Monday, 8 August 2022.

Numeric date formats

Dates may be written in all numerals. This style is common when the date is standalone—for example, in a signature. The U.S. date format is month-day-year, while the day-month-year format is followed by the UK and other nations. Slashes or hyphens are used to separate the parts of the date.

Examples
  • American: Signed 5-11-21
    for May 11, 2021
    British: Signed 11-5-21
    for 11 May 2021
  • American: Dated 11/5/2021
    for November 5, 2021
    British: Dated 5/11/2021
    for 5 November 2021

All-numeric dates are also written in the YYYY-MM-DD format, as specified by the ISO. This internationally agreed way to show dates is common in government, corporate, and other official usage. One of the benefits of this system is that it makes for easier sorting and storage of files and folders. In file names and data entries, hyphens are generally omitted.

Examples
  • Please submit all applications by 2023-05-01.
    referring to May 1, 2023
  • Application_20230501
    date in a file name

The date spelled out

Dates are sometimes written in words rather than numerals. Such usage is seen mainly in creative writing and legal documents. Spell out the day and the month, but use numerals for the year.

Examples
  • Where were you on the night of the fifteenth at 11 p.m.?
  • On the twenty-second of January 2021, an object landed in Farley’s garden.
  • They left on the first of December.
Caution

In formal writing, follow the prescribed format of writing the day and year in figures and spelling out the month.

Examples
  • American: On January 22, 2021, an object landed in Farley’s garden.
    British: On 22 January 2021, an object landed in Farley’s garden.
  • American: They left on December 1.
    British: They left on 1 December.

The month abbreviated

When part of a specific date, the month may be abbreviated. Write the first three letters of the month, followed by a period. Don’t abbreviate May, June, and July. In formal writing, abbreviations for dates are useful in tables and charts but avoided in running text.

Examples
  • Jan. 9, 1997
  • Feb. 24, 2022
  • Mar. 19
  • Dec. 31
  • May 1, 1997
  • June 23
  • July 31

In British style, the form is day-month-year.

Examples
  • 9 Jan. 1997
  • 24 Feb. 2022
  • 19 Mar.
  • 31 Dec.
  • 1 May
  • 23 June
Note

In AP style, the abbreviations Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. are used. The remaining months are not abbreviated.

Periods may be omitted in informal usage, if there are space constraints, or in a fixed format, such as a table. The months June and July are also then abbreviated.

Examples
  • Jan 9, 2021
  • 9 Jan 2021
  • 9-Jan-2021
  • Jun 11, 2023
  • 11-Jun-2023
  • 29 Dec 2051

On vs. in with dates

Use on with a date with the exact day. Use in to refer to the month or the year.

Examples
  • Your flight departs on August 3, 2022.
  • Your flight departs on the third of August.
  • but
  • The restaurant will reopen in August 2022.
  • The restaurant will reopen in August.
  • The restaurant will reopen in 2022.

Quick Quiz

Which is correct?
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Which is better style in British usage?
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Which is better style?
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Which is better style in formal writing?
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Did You Know?

Not all nouns have plurals.
Know more:Count and Mass Nouns