You look lovely today.
We at Proofreading Academy know this may seem a little forward, but… what would your dream date be?
Our dates aren’t terribly romantic, but they’re always formatted impeccably. Yes, today we’re talking about the finer points of formatting dates in writing.
The main issue that determines date format is whether you’re using UK/Aus English or US English. Dates in UK and Australian English typically read day/month/year, while those in US English read month/day/year.
So the following would be correct in UK or Australian English:
5 August, 1981
But in US English the same date would read:
August 5, 1981
This is fairly well known, but it is easy to forget if you usually use one format and are checking a document that requires another. It is thus vital to know what dialect your customer has asked you to use when proofreading their work.
In formal writing, it would be unusual to use an all-numeric date format. The date 5/8/1981 would look out of place in an academic document, for example, so you would usually amend it to say 5 August, 1981 instead. However, using a shorthand version of the date is perfectly acceptable in many kinds of writing (e.g. posters, newsletters and other informal documents).
Note that, even in formal writing, we use numerals for the day. This applies unless the number is part of the standard name of a notable day, such as with the Fourth of July. Beyond that, the best date format to use will depend on the customer’s preference or their chosen style guide. For instance, in a UK document, any of the following would be acceptable:
5 August, 1981
5th August 1981
5th Aug. ‘81
the 5th of August, 1981
As shown above, the comma before the year is also optional. If you are unsure of the best format, ask the customer if they have a style guide or preference. If not, simply ensure that dates are formatted consistently throughout the document.