I am writing statistics results and I want to put a list of lengths of time.

In decimal values it will be, for example, 1.90 hours but this is not very human friendly.

Then I think I can use 1 hour and 54 minutes but it is very long and difficult to compare with other lengths of time.

I would like to have something like: 1:54 but I don't know how to express the units. Would it be 1:54 hours or would it be 1:54 minutes? both feel wrong.

  • 14
    fairly typical is 1h54m – JMP Mar 29 '17 at 7:31
  • 5
    You could say 114 minutes. – vickyace Mar 29 '17 at 7:31
  • @JonMarkPerry your suggestion sounds right, can you create an answer with it? – fguillen Mar 29 '17 at 7:32
  • It also depends on your target market. For example, English speakers would probably prefer 12:34:56, whereas I believe Holland/Netherlands, prefer 12h34m56. – Neil Mar 29 '17 at 16:19

The W3 standard uses:


For simple timestamp, with no seconds, try:




Both are readily parsed by a computer due to the h and m and indicating the end of the numeric.

  • You can also put 1:45, although that's sometimes confused for "an hour and forty-five minutes after noon/midnight," depending on context. – MissMonicaE Mar 29 '17 at 12:53
  • @MissMonicaE That's the difference between "time" and "duration". They shouldn't be confused if you know what you're looking at, and anything that's meant to be one, shouldn't be labeled the other. – user39425 Mar 29 '17 at 22:31
  • @fredsbend Right, I'm saying that hours:minutes (or minutes:seconds) notation can be used for duration as well, depending on context. For example, if I said I ran a 4:30 marathon, that means I finished in 4.5 hours, not that the race started or ended thirty minutes past four o'clock. – MissMonicaE Mar 30 '17 at 12:05

ISO8601 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601) has a section on periods, so things like "P1D" represents one day, or "P3Y6M4DT12H30M5S" represents a duration of "three years, six months, four days, twelve hours, thirty minutes, and five seconds".

  • 6
    This is probably easy for a computer to parse, but as a human, if I saw that, I would have no clue what the duration represented (and I suspect the vast majority are not familiar with ISO8601). If an audience is familiar with the standard, it might be a good solution though. – Aurora0001 Mar 29 '17 at 13:54

You have to be VERY careful when using time. For example,

1:54 could mean

  • 01:54 AM - A time
  • 13:54 PM - A time
  • 1 hour 54 mins. - A duration
  • 1 min. 54 seconds - A duration
  • 1 out of 54 - a ratio
  • probably many others

So your best bet is to know your target audience. For example office workers that always work 9am to 5pm will see 1:54 is 1 hour 54 mins. after 12 - noon. While an audio editing team of people may see it as 1 min, 54 seconds.

So, that leaves us with a few options if your trying to get everyone to understand.

1.90 hours is a good start. 1h54m is decent 01:54:00 is good too 01:54.00 is good I would choose, personally

114 mins.


two columns

Hours | Mins  
1     | 54

Both are easy on the computer and hard to misunderstand.

  • 2
    I would read "01:54.00" as "1 minute, 54 seconds, and no hundredths of a second" – warren Mar 29 '17 at 17:54
  • 1.90 hours is a bad start. I have never in my whole life seen anyone write a duration using decimal fractions of an hour. Mixing colons and periods is bad for exactly the reason @warren gives. – David Richerby Mar 29 '17 at 18:44
  • @DavidRicherby I see decimal parts of hours a lot – warren Mar 29 '17 at 19:14

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