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In general, I try to write dates as one of:

  • 2014-01-03
  • 3 Jan 2013
  • 3 January 2013

avoiding slashes altogether so as to avoid any ambiguity with American date formats. That said, I've never found a good solution for situations where you need a short format (without the year), especially when dealing with ranges.

What's a good way of handling something like:

E-mail support rotation

 | Date        | Name |
 | ----------- | ---- |
 | 1/3  – 1/9  | John |
 | 1/10 – 1/16 | Jill |
 | 1/17 – 1/23 | Mark |

in a way that works on both sides of the pond?

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If you use digits to represent both month and day values, you'll have to allow for up to 5 characters (because you need a separator between the two elements). But IMHO, if you're going to have 5 characters anyway, the clearest notation is Jan01 thru Dec31. – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '13 at 16:59
Better than 01Jan as @rajah9 entered below? – Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa Dec 16 '13 at 17:02
I worked for over 30 years in the UK public transport industry, where many Start/End Dates (for timetables, duty rotas, pay periods, etc.) need to be succinctly expressed and accessible to a wide range of people (managers, staff, the public, regulatory authorities etc.). We often used MmmDD as above, but never DDMmm. Apart from anything else, dates like 01Oct are a bit awkward to parse. Also, I think any leading zeroes look less unnatural if they're within the text string (in Raja9's version they could be discarded, but I think that's a bad idea in this context). – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '13 at 17:12
Sounds good to me. All three answers are good, but I think yours is the best. – Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa Dec 16 '13 at 17:15
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Preferring your middle, unambiguous example of 3 Jan 2013, it would be quite natural to drop the year.

 | Date          | Name |
 | -----------   | ---- |
 | 03Jan – 09Jan | John |
 | 10Jan – 16Jan | Jill |
 | 17Jan – 23Jan | Mark |

It's quite easy to add in a 2-digit year when the date range spans over the year end.

 | 28Dec13 – 01Jan14 | NewGuy |

These formats will be understood on both sides of the pond.

At the cost of slightly more mental processing, you may also use two-letter month abbreviations, such as http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mois. (I would suggest the Code bilingue column, but there does not seem to be a two-letter consensus in English, possibly because of the confusion between March and May.)

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The issue is the inherit ambiguity of dates where the day is in the first 12 days of the month. This is of course because either number could be the day or month and be a valid date.

The way I would go about this is to write it in a slightly longer format, which would be the following (dates changed from the example for clarity):

 |   Date          | Name |
 |   -----------   | ---- |
 | JAN/3  – FEB/9  | John |
 | MAR/10 – APR/16 | Jill |
 | MAY/17 – JUN/23 | Mark |

At most it would cost you 2 extra characters, and there are commonly used abbreviations that would be clear to almost any reader of English. The same format could also be used the other way around, with date/month instead of month/date.

Another possible format is to keep it as specified, but declare in the title section how it is written. For example:

 | Date (DD/MM)| Name |
 | ----------- | ---- |
 | 1/3  – 1/9  | John |
 | 1/10 – 1/16 | Jill |
 | 1/17 – 1/23 | Mark |

This would allow you to keep the dates in the same format, but make it clear how the dates are actually formatted.

In regards to making it clear that it is a range, I have seen "->" in use before. An arrow is clear that it goes from one date to the other and only "costs" two characters.

 | Date         | Name |
 | -----------  | ---- |
 | 1/3  –> 1/9  | John |
 | 1/10 –> 1/16 | Jill |
 | 1/17 –> 1/23 | Mark |

You could also use the word "to", which would be clear on it's own as well.

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I think both of the following are unambiguous:


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Do you have any sources? – American Luke Dec 16 '13 at 18:34

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