RedPen Editing
Date style

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Styles exist within the publishing world. You don’t have to adopt these conventions but, if you do, it may help you to be more consistent in your writing.

Expressing time of day

If it’s necessary to specify an exact time, you have two options:

  • You may use the 24-hour clock and write the time as 10:35.
  • You might prefer to write the time using am/pm as 10.35am.

Note that a colon is used in 10:30 but a full point in 10.30am.

Note also that the second option begs the question whether to write a.m. or am! With full points to indicate an abbreviation (ante meridian = a.m.) or without? Which looks cleaner on the page? Your choice!

Times that are not so precise are usually spelled out:

  • The conference started at a quarter to nine.
  • I arrived half an hour too late.
  • We ate at midday.
  • The firework display started at midnight.
Expressing dates on the calendar

Dates can be expressed in a number of ways:

  • The Open Day is on 17 October 2016.
  • Half term starts on October 26, 2015.

Notice the use of a comma in the second option.

It’s not good practice to abbreviate the names of months; write them in full.

Ordinals (including the ‘st’, ‘nd’ or ‘th’) should be used if the month is implied rather than stated.

  • October 17 dawned bright but the 18th brought rain.

Notice that ‘th’ is not presented as a superscript.

Expressing years and decades

The year number can be given as a number except when it appears at the start of a sentence. (You should never start a sentence with a number.)

Year numbers can be abbreviated, provided the century is unambiguous.

  • The class of 2014 held their annual reunion at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • The class of ’14 held their annual reunion at the Royal Albert Hall.

However, unless the abbreviated form is a recognised title, ask yourself : Why abbreviate?

When referring to a single decade, there are two options: as a number or in words.

  • I started my career in the 1970s.
  • Popular music in the nineteen seventies saw the rise of disco.

For the first two decades of an entire century, I prefer to use numbers; ‘aughts’ and  ‘teens’ seem too clumsy for me.

Notice there is no apostrophe in 1970s; it’s a plural, not a possessive.

You could abbreviate:

  • I started my career in the ’70s.
  • Popular music in the seventies saw the rise of disco.

For ten-year ranges, again, there are options: 2001-2009 or 2001-09. Never 2001-9.

Whatever you decide, be consistent!

Expressing longer periods of time

For names of centuries, there are two options:

  • 20th century
  • twentieth century

Notice that the ‘c’ is lower case.

With AD and BC (or BCE and CE), AD precedes the year while BC follows it, and you might  present these in  small caps.