English Date Format Writing Essay

A variety of different styles may be used for formal invitations. The following style should be used in all other print and electronic communications.

For dates, use 1, 2, 3, 4, not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. Write "Reservations are due July 27," not "Reservations are due July 27th."


Do not abbreviate days of the week.

Do not abbreviate months of the year when they appear by themselves or with a year (December 2012). March, April, May, June and July are never abbreviated in text, but the remaining months are when they are followed by a date (Jan. 27), and are correctly abbreviated Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.

The semester begins in September.
The semester begins in September 2012.
The semester begins Sept. 4.
The semester begins Tuesday, Sept. 4.
The semester begins Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.

If only the month and year are used, do not use commas. Do not use the word "of" between the month and the year.

Use: We met in December 2011 (not December of 2011).

Appositives and phrases introduced by a comma must always be closed by a comma (or period at the end of a sentence).

Use: The meeting was held Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Fetzer Center.
Note the commas preceding and following Sept. 19.

Use:They were married May 14, 2012, in Chicago.
Note the commas preceding and following 2012.

Be concise and consistent

When to include the year

Include the year only if it is different from the present year (the year in which the publication or correspondence is dated) and always if the year is different from the present year.

Avoid using "last" and "next"

Last has several meanings and its use in reference to time can be confusing. The phrase "during the last month" can mean either "during the previous month" or "during the final month." Previous, past, and final have more specific meanings and should be used in place of last. Similarly, the word next also can be confusing and should be avoided.

Make your meaning clear

A week can be defined as a specific seven-day period or as any seven consecutive days. A month can be defined as a specific month of the calendar or as any period of 30 consecutive days. A year can be defined as a specific calendar year or fiscal year or as any period of 365 consecutive days.

If you write, "During the past year, the University raised $17.5 million," do you mean during the previous calendar year, or during the previous fiscal year, or during the 365 days immediately preceding the date of your writing? If you write "During 2011," or "During the 2011-12 fiscal year," or "During the past 12 months," or "From April 2011 through March 2012," the period covered is more clearly defined.

Fiscal and academic years

For academic and fiscal years, use 2011-12, not 2011-2012. The single exception to this rule is at the end of a century, for example, 1999-2000.


For decades, use 1960s, 1990s or use '60s, '90s (no apostrophe before the s).

You probably see the date written down (or displayed on a screen) dozens of times every day. You might even have to write it out yourself if you’re booking an appointment or organising your schedule.

Despite this, most of us give very little thought to how we write the date. In academic writing and other formal contexts, however, it’s important to use a clear and consistent format.

Different Formats

The most important thing to remember when writing the date is that, in the UK and throughout most of the world, we favour a day-month-year format (otherwise known as the little-endian sequence). This can be presented in numerous ways, including:

  • Day + Month (e.g. 21 April)
  • Day + Month + Year (e.g., 21 April 2016)
  • Numbers Only (e.g. 21/04/2016)

There are also variations to how these can be presented, such as by including a comma after the month (e.g. 21 April, 2016) or using a superscript letters after the day: e.g. 21st April, 2nd February, 13th June, etc.

Sometimes, the month in the date can be shortened to save space. For example:

14 January 2012 → 14 Jan 2012

9 October → 9 Oct

However, generally in formal writing it’s better to use the longer format for clarity. Likewise, when including a date in an essay you should usually write it out (e.g. 21 April 2016) rather than use the numbers-only style.

Check Your Style Guide and Be Consistent

Since there are various ways of writing the date, you should always check your university’s style guide to see if a preferred format is specified. If it doesn’t offer any particular advice, simply pick a clear format that suits you and make sure to use it consistently for all dates in your essay.

UK vs. American Dates

The other thing to keep in mind when writing (and reading) dates is how the US date format differs from ours. In America, dates use a month-day-year format, which can lead to problems when they are written out in numbers only as days and months get confused:

UK DateUS Date
07 April 2016 (07/04/2016)April 07 2016 (04/07/2016)
11th December 2013 (11/12/13)December 11th 2013 (12/11/13)
4th January 1945 (4/1/1945)January 4th 1945 (1/4/1945)


As you can see above, the date ‘07/04/2016’ represents the 7th of April 2016 in the UK, but the same numbers indicate the 4th of July in America! You should therefore take care about which format you use when writing for different audiences.


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