Date and time formatsJanuary 28, 2008
Did you know there’s an international standard for date and time formats? It eliminates the confusion that arises when dates in one format are viewed by people in another country who use a different format. For example, to me (in Australia), 4/5/2008 is the 4th of May, 2008, but to someone in the US, this is the 5th of April, 2008—quite a different date.
In essence, the standard says to write dates and times from largest to smallest, so yyyy-mmm-dd for dates and hh:mm:ss for time.
The standard is ISO 8601 and you can find out more about it here:
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601 (Wikipedia entry)
- http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/iso-date (W3C tips for webmasters)
- Purchase the standard from the ISO.org
- http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-time.html (summary of the international date and time formats)
In the December 2002 CyberText Newsletter, I also wrote about this standard for date formats. Here’s some additional information from that article:
For ease of use in sorting, filing and retrieving computer documents, [using this date format] is a preferred method. It is also simpler for calculating elapsed time, and combines naturally with the big-to-small convention used for hh mm ss when you need to be more specific about a date/time.
Because we should be writing in such a way that we don’t exclude parts of our audience, we should be using a date convention that is globally acceptable—we don’t have to say our dates this way, but we should be using this format in our professional communications, such as letters, faxes, and the like.