I'm a court reporter and can't move words around. Writing out "Three o'clock" at the beginning of a sentence is a given. What to do when the time is 3:01? And the zero creates an additional question.

Q. What time did you get to the store?

A. 3:01.

A. Three oh one.

Preemptive strike:

A. Three zero one. (Can't do this. It's not verbatim.)

A general rule would be appreciated. My reference book has the easy answers, but this rule is not addressed. Couldn't find anything online.

  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Why is "oh" spelled "oh" and not "o"? That's mostly about "invocatory Oh", but one of the answers addresses the two different possible spellings for the vocalised version of the digit. In the final analysis this is a matter for your chosen (or imposed) style guide. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 17:17
  • 2
    The problem is that the technology is obsolete. Visual and audio recording is required for accuracy; any transcription is a translation from language to writing, not a true record. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 17:21
  • @JohnLawler: Is it fair to say that most if not all future readers of any such transcription would normally "translate" back to the original audio? At least by listening to that "voice in one's head", if not actually vocalising it. I seem to remember something about the first person ever observed to be reading without moving his lips, which may be relevant here. I find it hard to imagine understanding written text without in some fashion "hearing" it. I personally don't normally "vocalise externally", but I certainly do it sometimes with complex texts, even if I'm completely alone. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 17:39
  • If you haven't an example in a style guide, or previous example, to rely on, isn't there something about precedents being important in law? Three-oh-one, Three-o-one, Three oh one and Three o one seem reasonable candidates. I'd say 'oh' looks better than 'o', and the hyphens make the composite (single time) clearer. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 17:52
  • 2
    If the witness said "three oh one" that is what you should write. If later the witness was reminded that he arrived at 3 o'clock he might say "No I didn't, I said the street number of the shop" and your record will be in conflict. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


If you are writing what the witness said, then the witness said "Three-oh-one" and that is what you should write.

There is no possible confusion. The question, "What time ..." makes the context clear.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.