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I've been researching like crazy a definitive source for determining whether I can correctly and properly use the preposition "of" to write the month and year only.

I located one source, the Office of Marketing, from Western Michigan University, which clearly states, 'Do not use the word "of" between the month and the year.' However, it lists no source for that statement. See: https://wmich.edu/writing/rules/dates

In 2017, a user asked a similar question to mine here in English Stack Exchange. In late October 2017, user Ringo left a single comment that made me believe the use of the word "of" between the month and the year is acceptable and is considered formal language.

Here is Ringo's response: "If it needs to be formal/official, then say 23rd of July, 2017. If it's less formal, then 23rd July 2017 is probably fine, because it's clear and sensible for the reader. – Ringo Oct 19 '17 at 4:43"

However, Ringo replied using a specific day of the month along with the year. See the original question and answer here: https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/145118/using-prepositions-with-date-and-time

In 2013, a different user asked a question here on English Stack Exchange about peoples' tendencies to omit "of," which strikes me as a stylistic PREFERENCE as opposed to a grammar RULE. Please see the original here: Is it common to omit a preposition (in / on / of) before “the month (year / week /day) when they are used adjectively and adverbially?

I am writing a nonfiction book in which the month and year only (no specific day of the month) is prevalent and essential for telling my story. I wrote everything consistently as "March of 2019, March of 2020, etc.".

I feel incredibly stuck not knowing the rule as to whether I am writing improperly by including "of" between the month and year. Appreciate your insight and guidance on this.

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  • You need to provide an example of your own. Do you mean a date as in: The fire occurred in December 1946? Like that?
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 14:17
  • You wrote "which strikes me as a stylistic PREFERENCE as opposed to a grammar RULE. " There are no "rules" in English - there is only guidance. It is hard to overstate how important context is in everything. ""If it needs to be formal/official, then say 23rd of July, 2017" this seems good guidance but feel free to ignore it.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 16:19

3 Answers 3

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Ringo is wrongo - this depends on the editing style that controls your publication.

Chicago Manual of Style 16th, §6.45: In the month-day-year style of dates, commas must be used to set off the year. In the day-month-year system — useful in material that requires many full dates (and standard in British English) — no commas are needed. Where a month and year are only are given, or a specific day (such as a holiday) with a year, neither system uses a comma. CMoS uses ”23 July 2017” and "March 2020.” (Per §9.32, the cardinal number of the date may be pronounced as an ordinal that is, "twenty-third.")

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Western Michigan University says "If only the month and year are used, do not use commas. Do not use the word "of" between the month and the year."

I think the "of" comes from spoken language, but in writing it tends to be omitted. You will see it in the names of songs (Summer of 84) etc. though.

Long story short, I chose to omit it :)

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  • But how is the Fourth of July normally written in the States? Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 15:12
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Much depends on whether one is (1) simply trying to convey the information as to when something happened, or (2) trying to produce some special stylistic effect.

If (1), one should follow the manual of style that governs whatever one is writing, and they generally, as has already been pointed elsewhere on this page, require that of not be used. Given that this is the dominant practice, and that of is not necessary for this purpose, one should probably not use it even if one's writing is not governed by any manual of style.

This should, however, not prevent one from using of in the cases of the second kind. The presence of of forces one to slow down in reading the sentence, and that may, in a suitable context, give an air of solemnity to whatever is being said. Consider, for example, a story that begins with something like 'In the April of 1234, the King issued the proclamation . . .'; some of the effect of that opening would be lost if of were omitted. A competent copyeditor would allow the of to stay there even if the applicable manual of style generally required that of not be used in dates.

Of between the month and the year may also be called for in the cases in which comparison between that month in different years is involved, as in 'The harvest normally takes place in August, but the unusual weather in the August of 1996, caused many growers to postpone it .'

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