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Using Ordinal and Cardinal Figures (Numbers) to Write Dates

Updated on February 2, 2012

by Specialist5

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?


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thank you so much for a comprehensible handy book of dates :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks a lot to clear everything about writing date. I have been arguing with my college till we read this page together.

    • profile image

      Thorin N. Tatge 

      7 years ago

      You're being unreasonable. I can't imagine where you get some of this tripe, unless you're making it up or passing it along from someone who did. "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. " How could that possibly be a rule?

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      I'll certainly look forward to it :)

    • Specialist5 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Norwich, CT USA

      Trish_M, You are absolutely correct! After I responded to you yesterday, I went on line and looked up info about various English grammar styles. There is a lot out there about American English vs. British English and mention of Australian and Chicano English. Interesting stuff. I already knew of lot of the vocabulary differences but was unaware of the grammatical differences and the extensive history of differences and how they came about. As a result of your comment from yesterday and one from MazzyBolero to the question about "different from" and different than," I've written a hub about this. I hope to get it typed and edited today. Thanks to you and MazzyBolero for planting the seed of wonder that made me go out and investigate. Cherrio. (Probably spelled wrong.) Ta, Ta.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Specialist5 :)

      I think that there must be many differences. My friend, who learned English in America, surprised us with some of the differences, and a lady, on here, wrote a hub that really puzzled me, because our ideas on certain words were so different.

      As they say ~ two nations, separated by a common language. It's a very interesting topic. :)

    • Specialist5 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Norwich, CT USA

      Hi Trish_M, My father once said to me that Americans don't speak English, they speak American. I used to think that an odd statement until yesterday. While reading many comments in the forum section about grammar and the "English" language," I noticed a number of references to UK English and American English. My new hub will address this issue, but here I want to say that February 10th is incorrect according to the "rules" in the American grammar reference manual that I've been using for years. I've recently purchased the newest edition and the rules I've learned haven't changed since 1981. Although it is thorougly common in written and spoken English in America (Feb. 10th) that doesn't make it correct. As a matter of fact, the rule for correct formating of dates falls under Special Rules. Many people are used to hearing Feb. 10th and seeing it written that way. That has to do with "the norm" and what seems pleasing to the ear. Feb. 10 does sound harsh, but that's because few people speak or write correctly, and lot's of time we take the easy way out. Poor English grammar is rampant thoroughout advertising, and, unfortunately, that's where many people pick up poor habits because they think it's correct. Don't be fooled. I am going to make every effort I can to purchase an English grammar book that's used in the UK. I am so anxious to learn exactly if the UK rules are so very different. If I find this to be true, you can bet I'll be writing a hub about that. Thanks for commenting. Be well and be happy.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Am I right in assuming that these are American rules?

      The example that sounds particularly odd to me is this one:

      'This year February 10, will be a good day.'

      I would put:

      'This year, February 10th will be a good day.'

      I think that this would be considered more grammatically correct here in the UK.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi MAM, Sorry it took so long to get back. I haven't been on my laptop this week. According to my grammer "bible" you write it as "the 1990s" or as "the '90s" and "the nineteen-nineties" when spelled out. You would use the apostrophe if you were to write "the '90s" or "the mid-'90s." An apostrophe before the "s" (1990's) would make it a possessive: i.e. The 1990s product line is now obsolete. I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask if you have any more questions I can help you with.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello: What is correct? --- "the 1990s" or "the 1990s"

      Thank you.

    • Specialist5 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Norwich, CT USA

      Hi Susan, Thanks for reading and dropping a line. This is my second hub and my first comment. How exciting! So glad you found the info useful. Take care and be well.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very useful information on using numbers to write dates.

      Thanks for sharing and Welcome to HubPages.


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