How to Write Dates Correctly: The Ultimate Guide

There are multiple ways to write the date. How do you know which format to use in a particular situation?

In this blog post, we will teach you how to write dates correctly in both American English and British English. We will also discuss some of the most common date formats used around the world.

So whether you’re writing a letter, an email, or a formal document, make sure you follow this guide to ensure you use the correct date format!

How to Write Dates in Words

There are many ways to write dates in words. The most common way to write the date in American English is to write the month first, followed by the day (e.g., January 1, 2022). The most common format in British English is the day first, followed by the month (e.g., 1 January 2022).

American English

In American English, we format the date in the following order: month, day, year.

  • Jan 1
  • January 1
  • January 1, 2022

With day of the week:

  • Monday, January 1, 2022

Examples of sentences with dates:

  • The date today is January 21, 2020.
  • I was born on May 12, 1990.
  • The crash happened on Tuesday, July 10, 1973.
  • My birthday is on October 9.

Using ordinal numbers, such as 1st, 4th, 10th, etc. in American English is not common.

British English

In British English, we format the date in the following order: day, month, year.

  • 1 Jan
  • 1 January
  • 1 January 2022
  • 1st January 2022
  • the 1st of January, 2022
  • the 1st of January 2022

With day of the week:

  • Monday, 1st January 2022
  • Monday the 1st of January, 2022

Examples of sentences with dates:

  • The date today is the 21st of January, 2020.
  • I was born on 12 May 1990.
  • The crash happened on Tuesday, the 10th of July, 1973.
  • My birthday is on 9 October.

As you can see, the last two letters of the number word are sometimes added, i.e., 1st (first), 2nd (second), 3rd (third)… These are known as ordinal numbers.

We also optionally put a comma before the year although it is not necessary. This is most commonly done when the date occurs in a sentence.

How To Write the Dates in Numbers

American English and British English use different ways to write the date in figures. British people put the day first while American people put the month first.

American English

In American English, we typically write dates in the following order: month/day/year. The date can be written in one of the following ways:

  • MM/DD/YY
  • MM-DD-YY
  • MM.DD.YY

Examples of dates in numbers:

  • 01/21/20 (this means: January 21, 2020)
  • 05/12/90 (this means: May 12, 1990)

Or, like this:

  • 01-21-20
  • 05-12-90

Or this:

  • 01.21.20
  • 05.12.90

You can even lengthen the year to four digits if desired (and for clarity’s sake):

  • 01/21/2020
  • 05/12/1990

British English

In British English, we typically write dates in the following order: day/month/year. The date can be written in one of the following ways:

  • DD/MM/YY
  • DD-MM-YY
  • DD.MM.YY

Examples of dates in numbers:

  • 21/01/20 (this means: 21 January 2020)
  • 12/05/90 (this means: 12 May 1990)

Or, like this:

  • 21-01-20
  • 12-05-90

Or even this:

  • 21.01.20
  • 12.05.90

You can even lengthen the year to four digits if desired (and for clarity’s sake):

  • 21/01/2020
  • 12/05/1990

Abbreviating the Date

The date can also be abbreviated in American and British English. We can do this if the date is not part of the main text of the document and to save space. Abbreviating the date is not recommended in formal writing.

The most common way to abbreviate the date is to shorten the month as follows:

  • Jan.
  • Feb.
  • Mar.
  • Apr.
  • Aug.
  • Sep. / Sept.
  • Oct.
  • Nov.
  • Dec.

Examples of how to abbreviate dates:

  • Jan 21st, 2020 (this means: January 21, 2020)
  • 12 Sep 1990 (this means: 12 September 1990)

How to Write Dates Formally

When writing dates formally, we need to write the dates in full. There are many formats you can use.

American English (Formal)

January 1, 2022

With days:

Monday, January 1, 2022

British English (Formal)

  • the 1st of January, 2022
  • the 1st of January 2022

With days:

  • Monday, 1st January 2022
  • Monday the 1st of January, 2022

Make sure to keep the dates consistent throughout the document. Choose one format to use and stick to it.

How to Write Date Ranges Correctly

There are a few different ways we can write date ranges.

As a shortened form, we can use the en dash “–” like this:

  • Jan 21 – Feb 12, 2020 (this means: January 21 to February 12, 2020)
  • 1990 – 1995

Another way we can write date ranges is with the words “from” and “to” like this:

  • from Jan 21 to Feb 12, 2020
  • from 1990 to 1995

We can use “between” when talking about date ranges. This is another common way to mention date range:

  • Between Jan 21 and Feb 12, 2020
  • Between 1990 – 1995 (between 1990 and 1995)

How to Write the Date with the Day of the Week

As mentioned briefly already, here is how we can write the date with the day of the week included.

American English Examples:

  • Monday, January 21, 2020
  • Tuesday, July 10

British English Examples:

  • Wednesday, 31st July 2022
  • Monday the 4th of June, 1988

Examples of Sentences:

  • I was born on Friday, 4th October 1960.
  • The party is on Saturday the 13th of October.
  • They got married on Saturday, December 10, 1975.

International Date Formats Used Around the World

There are a few different ways that dates are formatted around the world. Here are some of the most common ones:

YYYY/MM/DD (2020/01/21) – This is the international standard date format* and is used in many countries, including China, Japan, and Korea.

DD/MM/YYYY (21/01/2020) – This is the most common date format used in European countries, such as Ireland, the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. It is also used in Australia and South Africa.

MM/DD/YYYY (01/21/2020) – This is the most common date format used in the United States and Canada.

*The international standard (ISO 8601) is written as YYYY-MM-DD. This may be used to avoid any confusion when communicating abroad.

How To Write the Date for the IELTS Exam

You can use either British or American English for the IELTS exam. The IELTS examiners will not mark you down for using one format over the other.

However, it is important to be consistent throughout your essay or letter. Choose one format and stick to it.

You should also consider the tone of writing; in other words, is it formal or casual? Are you writing to a friend or an employer?

For the exam, we know that the letter is formal if we see “Dear Sir/Madam…” If you are writing to a friend, keep it informal.

Here are some tips to be mindful of when writing the date for the IELTS exam (formal):

  • Include the year
  • Write the date in full
  • Don’t use contractions in your writing
  • Capitalize the first letter of the month

Here are some tips to be mindful of when writing the date for the IELTS exam (informal):

  • It’s okay to write the date in numbers
  • Abbreviated months can be used to save space
  • Shortening the year to two digits is acceptable

Tips for writing dates in the IELTS Listening Exam:

  • You can write the dates as a number to avoid errors
  • You can write a shortened version of the date (for example, May 2, 2 May, 2nd May)

Tips for saying the dates in the IELTS Exam:

We ALWAYS use ordinal numbers when speaking, for example, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…

Be careful with similar sounding numbers, such as twelve, twenty, fourteen, forty and so forth.

Example:

  • 7 November 1968 

American English: ‘November the seventh, nineteen sixty-eight’ or ‘November seventh, nineteen sixty-eight’ 

British English: ‘the seventh of November, nineteen sixty-eight’ 

  • 13 February 2022

American English: ‘February the thirteenth, two thousand and twenty-two’ or ‘February thirteenth, twenty twenty-two.’ 

British English: ‘the thirteenth of February, two thousand and twenty-two’ or ‘the thirteenth of February, twenty twenty-two.’

How do you say the years in English?

We say the years in English by using a combination of numbers and words.

Here are some examples:

  • 2014  — ‘two thousand and fourteen’ or ‘twenty-fourteen’
  • 2015  — ‘two thousand and fifteen’ or ‘twenty-fifteen’
  • 2016  — ‘two thousand and sixteen’ or ‘twenty-sixteen’
  • 2017 — ‘two thousand and seventeen’ or ‘twenty-seventeen’
  • 2018 — ‘two thousand and eighteen’ or ‘twenty-eighteen’
  • 2019 — ‘two thousand and nineteen’ or ‘twenty-nineteen’
  • 2020 — ‘two thousand and twenty’ or ‘twenty-twenty’
  • 2021 — ‘two thousand and twenty-one’ or ‘twenty twenty-one’
  • 2022  — ‘two thousand and twenty-two’ or ‘twenty twenty-two’

We can also say the years by using a combination of numbers and words.

Other years to practice saying:

  • 1800 — ‘eighteen hundred’
  • 1900 — ‘nineteen hundred’
  • 2000  — ‘two thousand’ or ‘twenty-oh’
  • 1776 — ‘seventeen seventy-six’ or ‘seventeen hundred and seventy-six’
  • 1812 — ‘eighteen twelve’ or ‘eighteen hundred and twelve’
  • 1945  — ‘nineteen forty-five’ or ‘nineteen hundred and forty-five’
  • 1509  — ‘fifteen hundred and nine’ or ‘fifteen-oh-nine’
  • 2003  — ‘two thousand and three’ or ‘twenty-oh-three’
  • 1945  — ‘nineteen forty-five’ or ‘nineteen hundred and forty-five’
  • 1822  — ‘eighteen twenty-two’ or ‘eighteen hundred and twenty-two’

How do you say the decades in English?

Here are some examples:

  • the 1940s  — ‘nineteen forties’ 
  • the 1950s  — ‘nineteen fifties’
  • the 1960s  — ‘nineteen sixties’
  • the 1970s  — ‘nineteen seventies’
  • the 1980s  — ‘nineteen eighties’
  • the 1990s  — ‘nineteen nineties
  • the 2000s — ‘the noughties’ refers to the decade 2000 to 2009

We can also write them with a comma, depending on the style guide we are using.

For example,

  • the 1940’s
  • the 1950’s
  • the 1960’s

etc.

Using on and in with Dates

We use “on” when giving a date with the exact day. We use “in” when referring to a month or a year.

Examples:

  • I was born on the 12th of December.
  • The meeting is on July 15.
  • We’re going to Europe in May.
  • I’ll be back in a week.
  • What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?
  • Cleo’s birthday is in August.
  • I will be eating turkey on Christmas day.
  • My parents met in 1960.

To Ask About Dates

We often need to ask others about dates. Here are some examples of how to do this:

  • When is your birthday?
  • What day is it today?
  • What date is it?
  • What’s the date today?
  • What’s the date tomorrow?
  • What was the date yesterday?
  • Is today a holiday?
  • What month is it?
  • What date is the presentation? (or: when is the presentation?)

To Answer About Dates

To announce the date, use ‘it’s.’

For example:

  • It’s on the 15th of July.
  • Today is Wednesday.
  • Tomorrow is Thursday, the 10th of March.
  • Yesterday was the 12th.
  • It’s April 15th.

BC and AD

You may have seen other ways of writing dates, such as: Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD). “Anno Domini” is Latin for “in the year of our Lord.”

BC follows the date. AD can come before or after the date.

For example:

  • Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.
  • The Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 AD.

A more modern, alternative approach to writing these dates is to use the abbreviation “BCE,” which stands for Before Common Era. We can use the abbreviation “CE” to mean Common Era.

For example:

  • Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE.
  • The Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 CE.

In Conclusion

We hope you found this guide helpful. Choose a date format and stick to it. Remember to practice writing and saying the dates in English often so that it becomes second nature to you.

If you have any questions, please leave us a comment below!

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I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain and online. I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others! I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. I also like a good Guinness! Please share this post if you find it helpful; I really appreciate it. Thank you!

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