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How do you express the last decade of 20th century in formal written English? "1990s"? If the century is known from the context, can you simply say "the nineties"?

As in: "The involvement of US in Kosovo in the nineties"

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would say that the nineties is formal enough for any context, since it does not detract from a scholarly air. It would not be preferable to write the 90s, though, since it is discouraged to use numerals in formal writing.

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‘The 1990s’ should do for most situations. ‘The nineties’ used to refer to the 1890s, and they were more spefically called ‘the Naughty Nineties’, but I suppose that’s too long ago now to risk any confusion.

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Bearing in mind the "grocers apostrophe", and the fact that lots of people write 90's, for example, it would probably have been better not to quotate The 1990s. Which in practice can be simply the 90s because in practically all contexts the century is clear from context. – FumbleFingers Sep 28 '11 at 16:37
Question is: Is "the 90s" formal enough? – Konrad Garus Sep 28 '11 at 17:00

The nineteen nineties or The 1990s

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