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What format of date is appropriate for different contexts (business, personal) in written English, nowadays?

  • 1st of April, 2010
  • April the 1st, 2010
  • April 1, 2010
  • April 01, 2010
  • another one
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5 Answers 5

up vote 18 down vote accepted

The context that matters most is where you are located geographically (or which variety of English you otherwise wish to employ).

Paul covered the case of the US: "April 1, 2010". That would surely be understood in the UK too, but to my knowledge "1 April 2010" (NB: no comma) or "1/4/2010" would be more common there.

Edit: Based on some quick "research" I just did, most commonwealth countries (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) also seem to prefer "1 April 2010", while in Canada "April 1, 2010" would be more common (probably due to US influence).

As Paul mentioned, YYYY-MM-DD is pretty good for getting across universally, yet concisely. In my opinion the format often used by airlines – "01 Apr 2010" – is useful too; there isn't much room for misinterpretation there.

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Please comment and correct me if I'm wrong about preferred usage in some of the countries I mentioned. –  Jonik Aug 10 '10 at 19:03
    
And if someone knows of situations where some longer form (e.g. "the first of April, 2010") would be the most preferable, please tell! –  Jonik Aug 10 '10 at 21:03
2  
All branches of the American military use the Commonwealthy order: 1 April 2010. –  J.T. Grimes Aug 21 '10 at 1:34
3  
Longer forms, spelling out "first", would generally be used only on wedding invitations, in my experience. –  TRiG Oct 18 '10 at 17:18
    
And as Pavel pointed out, YYYY-MM-DD has the additional benefit of being designated as an international standard –  Ilari Kajaste Jul 9 '13 at 6:32

In the United States, it is customary to write "April 1, 2010", regardless of context. This is spoken, however, as "April first, 2010".

I would discourage using MM/DD/YYYY (e.g. 4/1/2010) format, because this may cause confusion as the rest of the world writes the day before the month. If you really need to write dates in a consise format, I recommend YYYY-MM-DD format.

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23  
+1 for YYYY-MM-DD format, which has the additional benefit of automatically sorting into chronological order when sorted alphanumerically by computers. –  nohat Aug 10 '10 at 18:25
    
I'll use "1 Apr 2010" in software that is trying to be concise but user friendly. I jus think it the most easy to read, unambiguous format across the greatest range of people (English speakers at least). I'll use "2010-04-01" or even "20100401" in the more machine only side of software or where sorting can be important, such as file names. –  Evan Aug 13 '10 at 4:36
    
Also the unit flow descends correctly when used in conjunction with a time stamp YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS.FFF = 2012-12-31 23:34:53.324 –  wonea Sep 4 '12 at 10:24
    
I normally spell the Month explicitly using its full name or its three letter abbreviation, like "4-Apr-2013" or "4-April-2013" (possibly with different punctuation), and notate the year using 4 digits. This removes most ambiguity. I find the YYYY-MM-DD format reader-unfriendly because people are not used to starting with the year. –  Shlomi Fish Mar 16 '13 at 6:40

There's now an international standard of date format, aka ISO8601 - so if you care about making the world a better and less confusing place, you should only use the standard - YYYY-MM-DD, forever dropping the old local date format ideas.

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I always write the month as either "Apr" or "April" and the year like 2010 to avoid any confusions. For example,

01/04/10

is way too ambiguous.

1 Apr 2010

is much clearer. Personally I prefer

2010-04-01

but I realize that this is because I am a geek, i.e. the chances of this format being accepted generally are pretty slim.

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2  
The chances of 2010-04-01 being "accepted generally" is pretty high (100% probability is high, isn't it?) ... in Hungary. :D –  Marthaª Oct 18 '10 at 19:54

I'd usually go for 1st April 2010.

(That's jS F Y.)

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1  
I would normally use this. Most people are dropping out the ordinal but I think it looks much better. I would speak it as "the first of April" but wouldn't normally write the "the" or "of". –  neil Feb 24 '11 at 17:12

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