- Books, Literature, and Writing
Using Ordinal and Cardinal Figures (Numbers) to Write Dates
You might think that getting the date right would be good enough. Well, such is not the case according to the rules of writing dates correctly so I'll explain the differences of ordinal and cardinal figures in dates and the importance of commas in these dates.
Ordinal figures can be written as a combination of numbers and letters or spelled out completely in letters. Ordinal figures written in the combination format are 1st, 2nd or 2d, 3rd, 4th, etc. Ordinal figures spelled out are first, second, third, fourth, etc. Always use ordinal figures when the day precedes the month or stands alone.
"When the day precedes the month or stands alone," express it in one of the two ways listed above. NOTE: The key word here is "precedes."
For emphasis use the number/letter combination. The next VFW meeting will be on the 10th of February. NOT February 10th.
For formallity spell the day out in word form. The next VFW meeting will be on the tenth of February. NOT February tenth.
The next meeting will be the 10th of the month. Or, The next meeting will be the tenth of the month. Do not use a comma after the month when the year follows: tenth of February 2012.
However, when a date is to include a period of time, a from-until date, the ending date can be written after the month. The circus will run from the 4th of June through the 10th.
For formality write: The circus will run from the fourth of June through the tenth.
The exception to this format is in formal legal documents, formal invitations and proclamations. All figures are spelled out in their entirety.
Cardinal figures are 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Dates written using cardinal figures are written with the day after the month. February 10, 2012
NOT February 10th, 2012, or February tenth, 2012.
Remember: Ordinal figures before the month; cardinal figures after the month. Fourth of July but July 4.
Do not use ordinal figures when writing a date in military format or in letters from foreign countries: day-month-year. 10-02-2012 (February 10, 2012)
Use commas after the day and year when the date includes month-day-year. The date February 10, 2012, will be important this year.
Do not use a comma when writing only the month-year. Rain fall in April 2012 was the most recorded in the last 20 years. However, be sure to place a comma after the day when only the month-day are used. This year February 10, will be a good day. The comma should be omitted after the year when other punctuation is used. Also, use a comma after the year to separate it from the rest of the sentence when it appears in an introductory dependent clause. "Once we introduced our new product line in September 1992, it was clear that we were finally on the road to a strong recovery."
No comma is placed after a year in a short introductory phrase. "In 1992 we opened six branch office in the Southwest." This same rule applies when the date is made up of just the month and the day.
However, be sure to use a comma after the day when the day is followed by a number. "On February 28, 27 managers from the Cincinnati plant will leave on a tour of . . . ."
Use two commas to set the date off if it is a nonessential expression. On Saturday, February 14, 2012, the VFW will sponsor a Valentine's Day dance.
The date format 2/10/12 is acceptable on business forms and in informal letters and memos. Be sure not to use this form if there is any chance the reader could mistake the sequence. February 10, 2012 or October 2, 2012.
More date stuff:
When writing years of class graduations or well-known years in history, abbreviated forms may be used. the class of '93 or the winter of '78. Be sure to use the apostrophe when abbreviating the year.
You can also abbreviate years in certain business expressions. FY 1994/95 or fiscal year 1994/95; the fall of '91/92. Do not abbreviate years written in a sequence: the years 1978, 1979 and 1980, and be sure to separate using commas as indicated.
Now that you've got all this date data, you may be surprised when people challenge you on some of these formats. Also, be sure not to be swayed by advertisments or commercials. They invariably get it wrong or are using some grammar-doesn't-count-in-this-instance license because they get away with it. I guess it's part of the new American speak or slang that has become so accepted by society. Don't fall into the pit of grammar misuse. Rules are there for a reason; or am I being unreasonable?