Editing Tips: How to Punctuate Dates

There are various ways to punctuate dates. This poses a challenge for proofreaders. Should you correct punctuation in dates in a document? And how does punctuating dates vary in different situations? In this post, we answer your punctuation questions.

Punctuating Numerical Date Formats

In numerical date formats, the only punctuation issue is how to separate the month, day, and year. The most common options here include:

  • Periods (10.12.1979)
  • Hyphens (10-12-1979)
  • Slashes (10/12/1979)

From a proofreading perspective, the main thing to watch out for here is consistency. As such, you should make sure that all dates in a document use the same separators.

Days of the Week

When a date includes the day of the week (e.g., Monday, Thursday, Saturday), the name of the day should be followed by a comma. This applies in all English dialects:

We will arrange the meeting for Monday, July 16, 2020.

This comma is omitted, however, when the day is written out in full with an ordinal number and “of” before the month. For example, we could say:

We will arrange the meeting for Monday the 16th of July 2020.

Keep an eye out for missing commas when dates include the day of the week.

Commas Between Days and Years in Dates

The US date format uses a comma between the day of the month and the year:

He joined the company on April 4, 1996.

This helps separate the two numbers in the date. In British and Australian dates, however, the month goes between the day and year numbers, so there is no need for the extra comma.

Commas After the Year in a Date

For a date in the middle of a sentence, US English tends to use a comma after the year:

We are holding the memorial on August 29, 2020, in the town square.

This is much less common in British and Australian English, though, due to the lack of a comma before the year. As such, it would usually be considered incorrect.

When only a month and year are given, no commas are required in any dialect:

The reports from September 2019 are encouraging.

As ever, your main role here will be to ensure your client punctuates dates consistently and in line with their chosen style guide (if applicable). And if the date format or punctuation is ambiguous at all, you should leave a comment noting the issue in the document.

We hope this post has helped you understand how to punctuate dates. And if you’d like more advice on proofreading punctuation, don’t forget to check out our courses.

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