There are many different ways to write dates, so knowing which one to use in your work can be difficult. At a basic level, you need to get the format and information correct. But you also need to consider whether the style in which you’ve written the date is appropriate for your document.
Read on, then, for our guide on how to write dates correctly.
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 an ordinal signifier (‘th’, ‘rd’ or ‘st’) after the date in superscript, like this:
23rd October 2016
However, if preferred, you can leave out the superscript before the year:
23 October 2016
Sometimes, people put a comma before the year, but this is only really necessary in the US date format (see below).
Moreover, in some situations, you may want to include the day of the week in the date, especially if it has specific connotations (e.g. Friday the 13th).
Shorter Form Dates
In less formal writing, a shorter date format can be used. This typically uses only numbers separated by full stops or slashes, rather than writing out the month. Shortening the year is also acceptable, such as in the following:
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 most writing, they are not typically correct in an academic context.
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
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, the month comes first. As such, we can reformat some of the examples above to compare how they’d appear in Australia and America:
23rd October 2016
October 23, 2016
14 Jan 2016
Jan 14, 2016
As you can see above, we’ve used a comma in the US dates to separate the day and the year, both of which are numbers.
We’ve also left out the ordinal ‘rd’ in the first example, as this is not used in the US date format. If we wanted to use an ordinal number in American English, we would write ‘the 23rd of October’.
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!
The International Date Format
Finally, if you’re sharing information across the world, you may want to use the international date format (ISO 8601). This is a standardised format that works across borders, so it is commonly used by government organizations and global businesses. And it always uses the format YYYY-MM-DD, which removes any chance of confusion:
We sent the invoice on 2020-07-10.
The date above, for example, denotes the 10th of July 2020.
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. Check your university style guide and see what it recommends. If it doesn’t specify a format, pick one you feel is appropriate and use it consistently throughout your document.
If you would like to have a 500-word sample of your work proofread for free, get in touch with the professionals at Proofed today!