How to Write Dates Correctly

There are many different ways to write dates, so knowing which one to use in your work can be difficult. Although your meaning will probably be understood however you choose to write the date, there some ways that are more formal than others.

Keeping It Formal

In formal writing, especially in the main body of an essay, it’s best to write out the date in full. This can be done with ‘th’, ‘rd’ or ‘st’ after the date in superscript, like this:

23rd October, 2016

However, if preferred, you can leave out the superscript and/or the comma before the year:

23 October 2016

You might even see the number in a date written out as a word (e.g. ‘the twenty-third of October, 2016’), but this might be overly formal for most situations!

In some situations, you may want to include the day of the week in the date, too, especially if it has specific connotations (e.g. Friday the 13th). This isn’t usually necessary, though.

Shorter Form Dates

In less formal settings, a shorter format can often be used. This includes using only numbers, separated by full stops or slashes, rather than writing out the month. Sometimes shortening the year is also acceptable, such as in the following:

  • 23.10.16
  • 23/10/2016

You can also write out the date but shorten the month to save space:

  • 14 January 2016 → 14 Jan 2016
  • 9 October → 9 Oct

Although these options are easy to understand and perfectly acceptable in correspondence like emails, they are not typically correct in an academic context.

Australian vs. American Dates

Another thing to keep in mind is that the date format is different in different places. In Australia, we use a day, month, year format, as shown above.

In America, however, the month comes first. As such, we can reformat some of the examples above to compare how they’d appear in Australia and America:

Australian Date US Date
23rd October, 2016 October 23rd, 2016
23.10.16 10.23.16
14 Jan 2016 Jan 14 2016

The fact that the day and month are swapped around can lead to confusion, especially if written in number form, so do be aware of this!

How to Write the Date in Academic Writing

There is no single ‘correct’ way to write the date in an essay, but it’s usually better to use a formal approach. The best advice here is to check your university style guide and see what it recommends. If it doesn’t specify a format, simply pick one you feel is appropriate and make sure to use it consistently throughout your document.

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