Date_and_Time_Formatting

I Might Be Right, I Might Be Wrong

Let us talk about time and date formats. It is a subject that comes up every so often, and I have been told I am wrong about the way I write time and date. I think I use the format that makes the most sense to me, but that is just the way I think. There are many other ways I have dates and times written, but I am writing specifically about the United States today.

I spent 20 years in the US Air Force. That is 20 years of writing time in 24-hour format. In the United States, common usage for time is to use a 12-hour format, with AM and PM. However, even many of the clocks I used for 20 years had 24-hour format. 24-hour format is designed to be easy to learn and use. It means you simply add 12 to any time after 12:59 pm. There is never a mistake as to whether someone means morning or night, since time starts at 0:01 every day and ends at 23:59 every night. Since I find this method more accurate for myself than writing am and pm, I use 24-hour time format on all my devices that allow it. I never have to squint to see an am or a pm, it is not needed. I find this format very easy to read and understand.

I also write my dates weird, for the United States. In the military, we always wrote dates as 12/02/08, which is year, month, day. Doing that for 20 years leads to confusion when trying to follow both civilian dates written as 02/08/12 and military dates. See, when looking at the two dates, it is not intuitive to determine what is meant in either one. Of course, for civilians, there is no confusion. They know if they are citizens of the United States, the format is always month, day, year. Unfortunately, it is not so easy when they are not US citizens. I tend to use the one I spent 20 years learning to use, with a four digit year. It is just easier for me to stick with a single format, so while still in the military, I learned to use the military format all the time.

I sometimes resort to spelling out the month instead of using a couple of numbers for it. It also makes it easier to know for certain what the date is in the future. If I see the date as numbers only, it can be difficult to determine what it should be. If I see the date with the month spelled out, it doesn’t matter where the four digit year is, it is obvious what the date should be. Of course, the month written out only works for those that read english.

I have records going back to 1953. Yes, that is a very long time. When I read old papers and records, I look at the dates. When they are written in numbers only, they can be difficult to determine. Dates before the year 2000 were normally written as two digit year, because we all knew it was the 1900’s in front. It did not matter if it was 1901 or 1999, you only needed the last two digits. All that changed in the future, when we realized that 01, or even ’01 could mean 2001. Oops. Now we are 14 years into that future, and the years are almost always written in 4 digits instead of two.

As for myself, I will continue to keep my devices set to a 24 hour clock. I will also continue to upset the majority in the United States, by writing my dates as yyyy-mm-dd. For myself, there is no confusion left. For others, sometimes it might be confusing, and sometimes it will be obvious. However, I have to look at those numbers daily. I will use what is easiest for me, now.

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