Writing Dates

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Rocío from Spain asked about a lesson on how to write dates. We are spoilt for choice when writing dates, but this choice makes it seem complicated. The general rule to follow is that you are consistent in your choice of style and that you choose a style appropriate to your audience. The more complicated the style, the more formal the audience. This lesson will show you all the ways to write dates in British English and will give you some listening and writing practice with dates, too.

Writing Dates

Writing Activation Pack

Many Choices

We are spoilt for choice when writing dates, but this choice makes it seem complicated.

The general rule to follow is that you are consistent in your choice of style and that you choose a style appropriate to your audience.

The more complicated the style, the more formal the audience.

11 March

11 March 2020

11th March 2020

the 11th March 2020

the 11th of March 2020

March the 11th, 2020

Years after 2000

Years are written as numbers unless they come at the beginning of a sentence.

At the beginning of sentences, years are written as words.

When writing years after 2000 in words, use and after the thousand.

Two thousand and three was the year I came to Spain.

I came to Spain in 2003.

Two thousand and six saw me start teaching English online.

I have been teaching English online since 2006.

Dates after 2000 are also heard as twenty plus the year.

I have been teaching English since 2006.

The current year is 2020.

Years before 2000

Years before 2000 can be written as numbers unless they come at the beginning of a sentence.

At the beginning of sentences, years are written as words.

Nineteen sixty-one was the year I was born.

I was born in 1961.

Nineteen seventy-seven was the year I left school.

I have been working since 1977.

Dates before 2000 are always heard as the first number followed by the second unless there is no second number.

The Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD.

The Romans left Britain in 412.

The Normans conquered England in 1066.

This is why we hyphenate (-) the second two numbers when writing them out in full.

Day Month Year

In British English we use the day, month, year format when writing dates.

We can use cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3) or ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd,  4th) when writing the dates.

We don’t need a comma when using the day, month, year sequence.

I created Britlish on the 11th May 2014.

I created Britlish on 11 May 2014.

Notice that we always say the X of Y when we speak, even if it is not written.

We do not normally write the word of though.

Month First

If you want to emphasise the month, you can put it first, too.

I created Britlish on May the 11th, 2014.

I created Britlish on May 11, 2014.

I created Britlish in May 2014.

Notice that when two numbers are next to each other we separate them with a comma to avoid confusing the reader.

Short Month Format

The months can be abbreviated or shortened when writing.

May is not normally shortened as it is already short enough.

The other 11 months can be shortened: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.

I created this lesson on 11 Mar 2020.

I created this lesson on the 11th Mar 2020.

Notice that we do not put a full stop after an abbreviated month.

Days of the Week

If you want to include the day as a word rather than a number, you should always put it first and separate it from what follows with a comma.

I created Britlish on Sunday, May the 11th, 2014.

I created Britlish on Sunday, 11th May 2014.

I created Britlish on Sunday, 11th May, 2014.

We do not normally need to put the before the date following the day.

We do not shorten the day of the week if it is written out in full.

Centuries

Centuries are written in lower case.

If they are written out in full form, not as ordinal numbers, we hyphenate double numbers.

It’s the twenty-first century.

It’s the 21st century.

Be aware that the first century of the Christian Era began on the 1st of January 1, and ended at midnight on 31st December 100.

However, the Anno Domini (AD) system was not invented until the 6th century, so nobody used these dates at the time.

What it does mean is that the present century is the 21st century and not the 20th, as you might expect.

Decades

If you write about entire decades, just add an s to the first year of the decade.

I was born in the 1960s.

Use an apostrophe to show that we have missed out the century in shortened forms.

I was born in the ‘60s.

Practice

The best way to see how dates are written is to write some of your own.

In the dates activator, I will give you some dates and you must write them down in an acceptable format.

You can write in any of the formats I have shown you in this lesson.

Make sure you use the correct punctuation.

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