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Writing Time Frames

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The rules for writing dates, years, decades, and times can leave you scratching your head. If in doubt, check out the rules below!

1)     DATES

  • When writing out a date like “the 1st of April,” you use the ordinal number.
  • When writing out a date, such as “August 1, 2012,” you do NOT use an ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.), but a cardinal number (one, two, three, etc.).
  • When writing out a date in the American format (month, day, year) using all three elements (month, day, and year), commas are required after the month, day, and year.
  • When writing out a date in the American format (month, day, year) using only two of the three elements,  no commas are required.
  • Commas are NEVER required when writing out a date in European format.
  • Do take note that a comma MAY appear after a year despite the above stated rules if the comma is required due to the sentence itself.

Correct Examples:
“I do not want my child to be born on the 1st of April.”
(American format)
“The party will be held on August 1, 2012.”
“He escaped on January 10, 2001, but was caught two weeks later.”
“She will graduate in May 2012 as long as she passes all her courses.”
“He will arrive on May 10.”
(European format)
“He will arrive on 27 September 2011 if he makes all his connections.”
“He escaped on 10 January 2001, but was caught two weeks later.”

Incorrect Examples:
“I hope my child is not born on 1 of April.”
“The party will be held on April 2nd, 2012.”
“He escaped on January 10 2001 but was caught the next day.”
“He will start his new job in May, 2012.”
“He arrived on 27, September, 2011.”

2)   YEARS

  • Though sentences are NOT to begin with numerals, there is a general exception to begin a sentence with a year in numeral form.
  • The year can be shortened by using an apostrophe to replace the first two digits.

Correct Examples:
“2010 was an exceptional year for the company.”
“I was promoted in ’10.”

3)   DECADES

Decades may be expressed in the following three way:
(i) Decades may be spelled out in lowercase.
(ii) Decades may be written as complete numerals with an “s” added onto the end (but with no apostrophe between the numeral and the “s”).
(iii) Decades may be written in shortened numeral form by using an apostrophe to replace the first two digits of the year and adding an “s” (without the apostrophe) to the end of the decade.

Correct Examples:
“He grew up in the seventies.”
“During the 1970s the economy was booming.”
“He grew up in the ’70s.”

Incorrect Examples:
“During the 1970’s the economy was booming.”
“He grew up in the 70’s.”
“He wished he could return to the ’80’s.”

4)   TIME

  • In text, you usually spell out the time of day, even the half and quarter hours. When using o’clock, you always spell out the number.
  • Numerals are used for times when exact times are being emphasized and when using A.M. or P.M.
  • For clarity’s sake, use noon and midnight instead of 12:00 P.M. and 12:00 A.M.

Correct Examples:
“He woke up at four thirty to catch his flight.”
“His flight left at six o’clock in the morning.”
“John’s flight leaves at 6:10 A.M.”
“There was a 5:30 P.M. deadline for the project.”
“They will arrive at noon.”
“You need to be here by 4:00 sharp!”

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  1. September 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm
  2. October 3, 2011 at 6:37 am
  3. October 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

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