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Up From Down Under September 2007 by (c) Les Stephenson

9/11 When Did It Happen?




9/11. When did it happen? Silly question? Not if you live somewhere other than North America.


The terrible events America experienced on September 11, 2001, occurred on 11/09/01 according to my Australian way of writing the date. Two years after that date, I was living in China. To the Chinese, the destruction of the World Trade Centre happened on 01/09/11.


Yes, in different parts of the world conventions vary as to how simple things like the date should be written.


In America, 09/11/01 means September 11, 2001. But if you wrote 09/11/01 in Australia, or various other countries around the world, you’d be referring to 9 November, 2001. In China, 09/11/01 would indicate 2009, November 1.


The Chinese method is derived from the international standard for dates:  YYYY-MM-DD (ISO8601).


It’s important to have the numbers correct for the context of your writing.


Let’s consider two other things about dates, and then take a quick look at time.





Lately, I’ve noticed some authors 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 August, or August 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.


Note: seventh horse, second fiddle.


Which means, of course, if you use ordinals in a date you should write something like this:


The next meeting is scheduled for the seventh day of November, 2007.


Note: seventh day.


Isn’t it simpler to write 7 August, 2007, or August 7, 2007?


Yes, much easier - you are not comparing or ranking the days of the month, you’re just writing the date.


Incidentally, you often see the comma omitted from a date: 7 August 2007. That came about through commercial practice. In letters and memoranda, the typist had one less key to press if the comma was left out. However, in prose and essays the year is generally considered parenthetical, and placed within commas. For example: Australia Day, 26 January, 2008, will be celebrated with fireworks on Sydney Harbour.


This section wasn’t meant to be controversial. I’m advocating best practice within the narrative of a story or essay. It does not prohibit different styles in appropriate contexts; vernacular or colloquial speech can be used in dialogue. You can still have a character say “See ya on the seventh, mate.”





The correct format for time is 11:25 a.m. Notice the colon between the two sets of numerals, and the space before “a.m.” Noon is 12:00 p.m. Midnight is 12:00 a.m. (Australians may leave out the full stops [periods], because we don’t customarily use them for abbreviations: 11:25 am, 12:00 pm, 12:00 am.) Don’t use capitals - AM or PM.


If you wish to use the word o’clock, do so for rounded times like two o’clock. Never mix numerals and words (11 o’clock is a definite no-no).





Regional and colloquial differences do occur. Write right for your context.




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