Post by email@example.com Post by Neill Massello
The ISO published a standard for date formats many years ago.
In high school in the late 1970s I came up with a system that made sense
to me, that I later found out nearly matched the ISO standard (though I
use a decimal point or a space where ISO uses a 'T'). Part of this was
because I kept getting confused as to which relatives (in four
countries) wrote M/D/Y and which wrote D/M/Y, in letters and on the
backs of old photos, partly because being a mathy sort I liked the idea
of big-endian dates -- the idea of writing "10/1/1978" felt a lot like
writing "forty four and a hundred" for a gross (or "four, forty, ands a
hundred" for the D/M/Y version) -- partly because I ran into 18th & 19th
C. dates just often enough to feel years should be four digits long for
clarity, and a bit later when I got into computers, because big-endian
dates sort correctly with either an alpha sort or a numeric sort and
don't need any special "how to sort dates" code. (This especially
matters to me when putting dates in filenames and wanting directory
listings to sort them correctly.)
For my own use, I go with YYYYMMDD, YYMMDD.HHMM, or YYYYMMDD.HHMMSS. If
I'm expecting anyone else to see it, I add hyphens and colons and change
the dot to a 'T' or a space depending on my audience.
Post by firstname.lastname@example.org Post by Neill Massello
YYYY-MM-DD is short, easy for humans to read but hard for them to
Aye. So far nobody who customarily writes MM/DD/YY or DD/MM/YY has
complained that YYYY-MM-DD is confusing. I occasionally get grumbling
about writing 17:20 instead of 5:20 pm[*], but never for writing dates
Post by email@example.com
Ask anyone what the date today is, and they will NOT reply 2017, November, 26th.
No, they'll probably say "the 28th". But if you ask them to write it
down, few will merely write "28".
And I note that we do not write times as "15 before 10" even though
folks say aloud "quarter to ten" a bit more often (around here) than
"nine forty five" -- though I'll grant that both forms do get spoken.
As are answers like "quarter of" or "half past" or "ten after" without
specifying an hour. (And I _have_ heard, in casual conversation on
land, folks give the time as "six bells" and fail to anticipate the
confused looks from us landlubbers. But I think I only have one friend
who'll casually give times as how long before or after Vespers, or
Matins, or Compline.)
I've described how I usually write dates, and how I think they ought to
be written, but in specific contexts other forms can make sense / feel
right. If writing to other Christians on religious topics in a somewhat
formal register, I might go as far as, "28 November, in the year of our
Lord two thousand seventeen," or "28 Nov, A.D. 2017". (If I'm writing
for a not-all-Christian audience and/or writing in other than a
religious context, I tend to go with "CE" and "BCE" instead of "AD" and
"BC" -- or, of course, leave that bit off entirely when I'm not talking
about historical periods that include BCE dates.) It's not that other
ways of writing dates are never, ever apropriate, but where clarity and
brevity matter more than style or tone, YYYY-MM-DD seems to work best.
A little more formal is YYYY Monthname DD. For a casual tone in a
context where the month and year can be inferred or have already been
stated, writing "the 5th" or "next Tuesday" suffices. So _sometimes_ we
want to write as we speak, yes. But for a _general_ format there's no
expectation that writing is merely transcribed speech, and YYYY-MM-DD is
quick and clear -- and puts the year up front so that if you're talking
about next year or last year instead of this year, that's less likely to
One place where I do deviate from YYYY-MM-DD is when using calendars I
don't know as well, comparing a date in different calendars, or using
the dating of the period for dates before 1 Jan became the first day of
the year everywhere. If I'm not sure (a) how the months are counted or
(b) whether month numbers are ever used by folks using a particular
calendar, I go YYYY Monthname DD. For example, today is:
Gregorian: 2017 November 28
Julian: 2017 November 15
Hebrew: 5778 Kislev 10
Islamic: 1439 Rabi`al-Awwal 09
Persian: 1396 Azar 07
Coptic: 1734 Hathor 19
Indian (civil): 1939 Agrahayana 07
(And yes, I started using the longer form of the Mayan calendar as a way
of pushing back against the 2012 "end of the Mayan calendar / end of the
world" crap. The calendar extends beyond their predicted "universe gets
remade" date, and even that latter date is sometime in the Gregorian
year 4772. We've got a while.)
The real nuisance wrt writing dates, is the off-by-one difference
between astronomical dates and Gregorian dates earlier than 1 CE.
The year before Gregorian 1 CE is 1 BCE, and the year before that is 2
BCE. For astronomers, the year before year 1 is year 0, and the year
before that is -1. But at least the presence of _either_ a minus sign
or a "BCE" or "BC" indication is enough to indicate which of the two
calendars is being used.
[*] Though not as many complaints for "17:20" as for saying aloud
"seventeen o'clock" instead of "seventeen hundred", or for calling 17:20
"a third past seventeen". Note that when giving performance times in an
announcement of an upcoming performance, I will sometimes switch from
24-hour time to am/pm for the ease of my readers.
D. Glenn Arthur Jr./The Human Vibrator, ***@panix.com
Due to hand/wrist problems my newsreading time varies so I may miss followups.
"Being a _man_ means knowing that one has a choice not to act like a 'man'."