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Dateline: Uniform States

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Written by Basil on 05/17/2002 10:57 PM. Filed under:

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Tim Powell, a user interaction designer at IBM, is trying to convince me that only one date format is valid in the United States. According to Tim, only month-day-year is acceptable for dates in the US (e.g., May 17, 2002). I have been contending that day-month-year (e.g., 17 May 2002) is perfectly valid and often used. We both cite numerous examples as proof.

His first words in this escalating flame war were: Consult any style guide. It took me a few days, but I finally consulted a few. To date, I have consulted three: the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), 14th edition, the AP Stylebook 2000, and Hodges’ Harbrace College Handbook.

CMOS prescribes using day-month-year format, because it is speaking on behalf of the University of Chicago Press. (This is what following the CMOS means, of course.) “The University of Chicago Press prefers that in all text, including notes and bibliographies, exact dates be written in the sequence day-month-year, without internal punctuation….” It does give some latitude, however: “The Press will also accept the alternative sequence month-day-year if it is preferred by the author and used consistently.” (CMOS 8.36) Surprised yet, Tim?

The AP Stylebook used month-day-year examples exclusively, but made no specific prescriptions about usage. Perhaps as importantly in the present conflagration, it made no proscriptions, either.

Hodges places the month-day-year example first, but it then follows it with a day-month-year example. It seems more concerned with making sure ordinals are not used improperly.

On Tim’s side? “Windows does it this way.” So? “Java does, too.” Sun and Microsoft agree? I guess that’s important, but is it binding on society as a whole? “This is my job, so I must know what I’m talking about!” Um…. Read the above again.

The ball is in your court, Tim. Where is your documentation? :-)

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One Response to “Dateline: Uniform States”

  1. Kevin Basil Says:

    Happy Anniversary to My Blog

    It’s been five years since I first blogged. Oddly, the first post wasn’t really the first.
    It’s funny how you remember things. I thought I’d been blogging for longer than I’d been Orthodox. But my chrismation in the Orthod…