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I am a bit confused. When do we write 2014-2015 and when do we write 2014-15? Are the two the same? If yes, which is more formal?

closed as primarily opinion-based by choster, Chenmunka, FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, tchrist Aug 22 '15 at 13:58

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    There is no universal standard here. Best practice is to emulate the style and conventions of your local institution or the people who are in your audience. – Dan Bron May 21 '15 at 10:33
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    Both are incorrect. You must use an en dash, not a hyphen. – RegDwigнt May 21 '15 at 10:35
  • Also, your title is mistaken; 2014-15 is one academic year, though it covers part of two calendar years. – TimLymington May 21 '15 at 12:37
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Both are correct. But for academic and fiscal years, use 2014-15, not 2014-2015. The single exception to this rule is at the end of a century, for example, 1999-2000.

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There is considerable disagreement among style guides on how to punctuate inclusive year ranges. Words Into Type, third edition (1974), for instance recommends using an en-dash and only the last two digits of the closing year of the range if it falls into the same century as the first year of the range:

To represent to between figures or words an en dash is used. ... [Relevant example:] the years 1970–73

The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003) recommends following its conventions for inclusive four-digit numbers, which leads to three discrete cases of examples, which it covers in these examples appended to section 9.67 Inclusive years:

the war of 1914–18, the winter of 2000–2001, in 2004–5

Chicago makes an exception with regard to inclusive years in book titles:

9.68 Inclusive years in titles. Where inclusive dates occur in book titles, it is customary to repeat all digits. In chapter titles, subheads, table titles, and figure captions, however, the abbreviated form is usually more appropriate. [Relevant example:] An English Mission to Muscovy, 1589–1591

Oxford Style Manual (2003) has yet another preference:

  • An en rule may b used as a substitute for the word to, as in the construction during the year 1976–9 or the period 1992–2003. ...

...

  • The solidus replaces the en rule for a period of one year reckoned in a format other than the normal calendar extent: 49/8 BC, the tax year 1934/5, AM 5750 = 1989/90, AH 1414 = 1993/4, saka era 1916 (1994/5).

The Associated Press Stylebook (2002) doesn't acknowledge the existence of the en dash at all, and advises the use of the hyphen in place of the slash when that punctuation mark might normally be called for:

slash This diagonal line, also known as the virgule, may not be transmitted correctly in some computer systems. Substitute a hyphen whenever possible.

Beyond that, AP doesn't provide any examples of inclusive number ranges, suggesting that its preferences is for spelled-out ranges with to in place of connective punctuation. The UPI Stylebook (2004) seems to follow AP in ignoring en dashes, but it ignores slashes as well.

Clearly, this is an area where no consensus on punctuation style exists. If you don't have a house style guide or specified reference style to uphold, you are free to use your own judgment about which punctuation style to use with year ranges.

  • The AP use may be a hangover from the old wire service days or early computer systems' control sequences rather than considering final edited output. – Chris H Aug 20 '15 at 12:13

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