A Note on Dates

A few years ago I realized I preferred the European style of writing out the date. To those of you who know I’m a bit of an Anglophile, this will come as no surprise. At the beginning I wrote with the day first, then month, then year just because it was a little fun and different, but, of course, I had to analyze why I liked it more than the typical American method of writing out the date.

For some reason, it seemed to make more sense, and here is why: The European way of writing the date looks like this:

25 August, 2013 (day, month, year)

The American way looks like this:

August 25, 2013 (month, day, year)

The American way doesn’t make logical sense to me. Why would you start with the month, then proceed to the day, and then move to the year? The European way starts with the day (the smallest increment of time), then it moves to the month, and then the year (larger increments of time). It proceeds in an orderly, logical manner, while the American way zigzags between larger and smaller increments of time.

Who designed or standardized these systems?

I understand that one might also wish to go from largest to smallest increment of time: year, month, day (2013-08-25), and that is fine with me. We write out time that way: 8:33:25 (hours, minutes, seconds), so it might be more consistent to also proceed in that order with dates.

I will continue with my logical notation of date, but I won’t be offended if you choose not to do so yourself.

5 thoughts on “A Note on Dates

  1. I always write the day before the month. And I always write out the name of the month instead of using a number.

    Because, working with international hires, I’ve found too many mistakes when someone converts DOB from European to American formats.

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  2. We are becoming a more globally minded population all the time (the internet, BBC television popularity, how many things riff off of “Keep Calm and Carry On,” etc.) and because of that, I think we need to be more consistent with how we format information (being aware of others). I just noticed that the date format on my blog is set to the American way. I should have noticed this! I will be changing it soon. Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. It’s because our way of writing down dates mirrors natural language. Nobody says “are you doing anything on twenty-five August?” But they might say “are you doing anything on August 25th?” Now maybe Europeans use the “25th of August” locution much more commonly than we do, and maybe theirs is also just a reflection of natural language (albeit a different language, or at least dialect). But if not, the American way would actually make more sense in this regard.

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