Three minor topics I’ve meant
to write about are Dates, Time and Capitalisation. The information is based on the best references I could find –
This section isn’t meant
to be controversial. I’m advocating “best practice” within the narrative of a story or essay. It does not
preclude the use of different styles in appropriate contexts, or the use of dialect or colloquial speech for dialogue.
Lately, I’ve noticed some
authors who insist on using ordinals in dates. What’s an ordinal, you ask? These are ordinal numbers: first (1st),
second (2nd), third (3rd), fourth (4th), … eleventh (11th), twelfth (12th),
thirteenth (13th), … twenty-first (21st), and so on. It means a position, order or rank in a series.
Ordinals shouldn’t be used
for dates. It’s technically incorrect to write 7th January, or January 7th. Why? Because, an ordinal
should include the unit of measure.
The horse came seventh in the race.
He played second fiddle in the orchestra.
Which means, of course, if you
use ordinals in a date you should write something like this:
The next meeting took place on the seventh day of January, 2007.
Isn’t it simpler to write:
7 January, 2007, or January 7, 2007? Yes, much easier - you are not comparing or ranking the days of the month, you’re just
writing the date.
The correct format for time is
(Australians may leave out the periods, because we don’t customarily use them for abbreviations.)
If you wish to use the word o’clock, do so for rounded times like . Never mix numerals and words ( is a definite no-no).
Capitalising words for relationships
and endearments can confuse writers.
When should you capitalise words
like “dad” and “mum”?* The simple answer is: capitalise a relationship when it’s used as a form of address and/or substitutes for
a personal name.
“May I have a piece of cheese, Mum?” asked Wendy.
Wendy addressed her mother; therefore,
we use a capital letter. However, notice we don’t use a capital letter for mother
in the previous sentence. Whenever the relationship follows a pronoun, no capital is required.
“I’ll tell my mother on you!” yelled James to his playmate.
James addressed a playmate, not
his mother. The rule about pronouns is easy to understand. However, look at the following example:
“Should I tell Mum about that, Dad?” asked Wendy.
No pronoun, and you wouldn’t
expect Wendy to use one. Although the father, not the mother, is the focus of the question, notice both relationships are
Other relationships such as aunts,
uncles and grandparents are treated in a similar fashion.
She visited her aunt for the summer.
She visited her Aunt Martha for the summer.
(The relationship follows a pronoun,
but notice it forms part of a name – “Aunt Martha”.)
“May I go to the store with you, Grandma?” she asked.
“I’m going to the store with my grandmother,” she said.
Endearments are not usually
capitalised. This includes terms such as: honey, sweetheart, dear, darling, sugarpie, sweetie, etc.