Submitted by Nancy Resnitzky on August 19, 2011

Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators

Is writing “the August 1 card” correct, or should it be “the August 1st card”? I know July 23rd, 2011 is incorrect but when it comes to the “st”, I’m a confused Canadian. Can you help?

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This is quite interesting, especially the comments, from Ben Yagoda's blog - Not One Off Britishisms:

http://britishisms.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/eur...

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There would seem to be no hard and fast definition of how dates should be written and I suppose that writing Jan 1 conveys the same message as January 1st.
However when I hear someone say "January one" or 'one January" rather than "first of January" or "January the first" it just doesn't sound right.

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@Warsaw Will and judith, I guess that takes away any quarreling people may have about the date format. :)

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@judith and Brittany - The current Sundance Film Festival in Utah advertises itself as running Jan 16-26 2014

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Judith, I am not sure. My gut tells me it's February 10-16, 2014 instead of adding "th." I have a feeling it would be written "February 10-16, 2014" or "February 10th-16th of 2014."

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Which is it: February 10-16, 2014 or February 10th-16th, 2014 or does it even matter?

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Sorry to hear of your problems. All the best.

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Warsaw Will, I don't really have much in the way of a comment on your post but it does seem that there are many local "standards" for date formats. I always check to see how the form (paper or web) labels the date labels and I just follow what it says for M/D/Y or D/M/Y, etc. If there is no label like sometimes happens on paper forms I just use the American standard of M/D/Y.

I always grew up knowing that you write the date like July 23, 2011 instead of July 23rd, 2011. But that may just be a local custom. I really don't know. And it appears that colleges and universities all across the USA vary on which style they prefer for papers. Some only accept MLS some only accept APA. I know Columbus State Community College (back in 2003) when I went there they used MLS but I have since heard they switched to APA but don't quote me on that. If I remember right DeVry Univeristy (I went in 2002) uses APA as does the University of Phoenix (I attended online in 2012). I do wonder if American colleges and Universities are more and more using the APA format. The only thing I know is that I am just not able to handle the stress of college. Not even 2 classes per term. I have bipolar disorder and along with that I get pschotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, severe anxiety and at times paranoia if the stress is prolonged. I experienced some of that last year when I tried to go back to college doing online classes. I only lasted 2 semesters. And I was never really all that keen on learning proper grammar. In fact I hated grammar in school. I still don't even know the meaning of a pronoun or adjective. I know they are grammar-related and it's a name of a functional word that somehow relates to other words but really I have no idea what they are. If I remember correctly a pronoun is like the proper name of a person or brand or something, like Microsoft, Apple, Canada Dry, Cindy, etc. An adjective I think is a decsriptor word like "blue" sky. But I haven't been in high school for 11 years now. And I've got plenty of prematurely gray hairs to prove it! haha Ok enough rambling. My comment here probably hasn't helped anybody here with the original question. I'm sorry about that. Have a wonderful day! Time for sleepy-time.

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@Brittany - Sorry if I overreacted a bit. I probably read too much into "our (American) normal way".

Some people (and I include Brits here) sometimes forget that the English-speaking world stretches far beyond their particular borders. For example what the Chicago Manual of Style (see comment above) says really only affects those who accept it as the norm. Which isn't even the whole of the US, as many publishers follow AP style instead. Both of which are simply style books in any case, and neither of which carry much weight in my part of the world.

As far as writing dates in the UK, I think Mr Pepperpot said it all really. And when using the short form in Europe, this is more than just personal choice: I had to do some stuff in the bank yesterday, dating the forms 12/07/2013. If I'd dated them 07/12/2013, the bank would have made me change them all.

Another silly little difference, for example, is that we Brits say "two thousand and twelve" (although actually I think after the Olympics, most people now say "twenty twelve", but I'm old fashioned). I don't think Americans use "and" before tens like this - "Three hundred and thirty thousand, four hundred and twenty".

But I'm still a bit puzzled by the question. I think koam is the only commenter who has addressed the point that the date is being used as an adjective here. You can find racecards on the web with the day's runners for a particular (horse) race meeting in Britain or Ireland, and one of the biggest UK sites - "Sporting Life" lists "Mon July 15 2013 Racecards", but I don't really think it's being used here as an adjective - just the date followed by the noun. But Nancy talks of "the August 1 card", where the date is definitely being used as an adjective, which might make the use of the ordinal more appropriate. Just a thought.

Which leaves me with one more query - in the original question, Nancy says "I know July 23rd, 2011 is incorrect" - and I can't understand why. Nor, apparently, would Scientific American, which has a blog post titled - "Bora’s Picks (July 12th, 2013)". So where might this strange idea come from? (Don't tell me! The Chicago Manual of Style?)

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/incubator/2...

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Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe someone else knows. I just googled it and nothing of value came up. Nothing with "august 1 card" or "august 1st card" came up, only stuff for something posted on Fox sports on August 1st regarding "Shogun versus Sonnen fight card".

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Come to think of it, forgive a Brit's ignorance, but what is an "August 1(st) card" anyway? Is it something to do with horse racing?

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Hi Warsaw Will. I have no problem with anybody wanting to say/write the date as they wish. We are all different and grew up in different places where the norm of the area is just that - the norm of the area. :) I had come across this site mostly by accident. I searched for something on google trying to find out if the "st" in 31st is superscript or subscript but I couldn't remember that term. My brain doesn't work well anymore due to a medication I am on so I tried to google it. :( I just asked mom what that's called and she told me superscript and subscript which I now remember. *sigh* But anyway. I read some of this page and noticed the debate on date formatting. I thought I'd comment with my own experience. If my first comment sounded angry or if it sounded as an attempt to be authoritative that is not how I intended it.

Yep "You say tomatoes and I say tomatoes, etc." I just find it so interesting how people from around the globe have different ideas on how it should be written or said. But it's like anything else I guess when it comes to language. Nothing is set in stone and language is always evolving (for better or for worse). Thank you for your input. :)

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@Brittany - It's just a different logic. For me the way you don't like is "normal". I don't really see why the month has to be the focus and why putting it first should be any more logical than putting the day first, but then I simply like what I'm used to.

Although I'd normally write "31st December 2012", I have no problem with "December 31st 2012", but I just can't get my head round "12/31/2013" - to me that's: Medium/Short/Long - what's that all about? No logic at all! (Which is what my Polish friends also say). But 31/12/2012 is totally logical (for me and them) - Day/Month/Year = Short/Medium/Long.

"December thirty first two thousand twelve" may be the way you say it out loud, but that doesn't mean that is how all the rest of the English speaking world say it. I'm pretty sure that on the BBC they say "And here is the news for Saturday the thirty first of December, two thousand and twelve" or some such. And I can see no reason at all why "to put the day before the month is illogical".

Here's a dateline from today's NYT - Friday, July 12, 2013 (your "normal"), but here's another, from the Guardian (UK - my "normal") - Friday 12 July 2013, and from The Independent (UK) - Friday 12 July 2013. It seems that British papers aren't consistent here, though, as the Times has July 13 2013, as does the Financial Times. When it comes to writing the date in numbers, however, all Brits use the Day/Month/Year system.

And so does the the rest of Europe -
13.07.2013 (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland)
Mis à jour le 12.07.2013 à 22h19 (Le Monde, France)
13. Jul. 2013 (Die Welt, Germany)
Madrid 12 JUL 2013 - 22:12 CET (El país, Spain)
12 luglio 2013 (La Repubblica, Italy)

I'm not really saying that the system I, Pepperpot and one or two others on this thread are used to is any more logical than yours, but it certainly isn't any less, just different. You say tomatoes and I say tomatoes, etc.

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I still don't understand why so many people write the date as 31/12/2013 versus our (American) normal way of writing it as 12/31/2013. If we are going to write December 31, 2013 why not keep the date that way as in numerical values? I sill don't understand why others say 31 December, 2013 when really the month is initial focus of any date then the day and year. Without the month first you don't know which month the day of the month is in. Logically the Month should come first, then the day and then the year. Unless you are a person always looking at historical facts and dates then to me it would seem logical to use the year, then month then day as in the ISO format.

December thirty first two thousand twelve is how we say the date out loud. Which of course is the 31st of December but to put the day before the month is illogical.

Day/Month/Year doesn't make sense to me and I don't think it ever will. Year/Month/Day seems much more logical.

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Please give me the reason as to why writing the date as( example) May 23rd, 2012 is incorrect.I know that some people say that it is an error, but give no reason as to why it is. Couldn't it just be considered stylistic preference to add the rd, th or nd.

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"August 20" always jars my British eye and I am likely to read it as "August twenty" before realising it means the twentieth of August. August 20th and 20th (of) August are both correct in British English, but less so in American English, it seems.

On a related note, it always seems strange to me that 9/11 has caught on in Britain for the WTC attack, but there you go.

Personally, I think it would be easier if we all used the ISO date format YYYY/MM/DD in all written and spoken English, e.g. 2011/09/20. This would at least have the advantage of putting computer files with the date in the file-name in the correct date and alphabetical order.

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Never mind whether one uses ordinal or cardinal numbers in dates. To my ears, "September 11th" sounds daft, implying as it does that there have been ten previous Septembers (cf. Henry VIII, Pope Benedict XVI). "11th September" is clearly an abbreviated form of "11th day of September" and thus makes more sense.

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The Associated Press, Chicago Manuel of Style and Modern Language Association all encourage using the number only instead of the ordinal. So:

May 1 (U.S.)
or
1 May (Europe)

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I fix the problem by writing it in the military fashion ... 01 Aug!

The rule of thumb is not to write out the ordinal after the month ... It's one that I ignore if I'm not writing the year. I write August 1st. If I add the year, then I drop the 'st' ... August 1, 2011.

This is not a biggie ... Do it the way you want!

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In the example, the date is an adjective describing which "card." Using the ordinal would be the most correct, I think, but it's optional if you're not trying to be formal. I'd have no problem if the community discussing such cards decided to collectively drop the ordinals for simplicity.

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In British (written) English I'd say that "real people" almost always write ordinals after numerals where the month is written in full e.g.

20 August (possible but unlikely)
August 20 (never used in my experience)

but -

20th August
August 20th

- Either would be fine. As would -

August the 20th
(common in speech, less common to see it written down but it does get used)

...the 20th of August
(less common, but used casually e.g. in a sentence e.g."I met my wife on the 20th of August" etc)

Ordinals might be used or not used with an abbreviation of the month e,g,

Sat Aug 20 (maybe less likely),
Sat Aug 20th (maybe more likely)
20 Aug (maybe more unlikely)
20th Aug (maybe more likely)

About the only time in the UK I have seen something like "August 20" written is in advertising (posters, leaflets etc) and similar material (political handouts, flyers promoting a ballot, and so on). It frankly jars the eye and looks a bit sloppy, like the person was in too much of a rush or couldn't be bothered to write the date properly, but I think a lot of advertising people like to follow the American models in the hope of their material seeming more dynamic. Or perhaps they just don't know any better.

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In British (written) English I'd say that "real people" almost always write ordinals after numerals where the month is written in full e.g.

20 August (possible but unlikely)
August 20 (never used in my experience)

but -

20th August
August 20th

- Either would be fine. As would -

August the 20th
(common in speech, less common to see it written down but it does get used)

...the 20th of August
(less common, but used casually e.g. in a sentence e.g."I met my wife on the 20th of August" etc)

Ordinals might be used or not used with an abbreviation of the month e,g,

Sat Aug 20 (maybe less likely),
Sat Aug 20th (maybe more likely)
20 Aug (maybe more unlikely)
20th Aug (maybe more likely)

About the only time in the UK I have seen something like "August 20" written is in advertising (posters, leaflets etc) and similar material (political handouts, flyers promoting a ballot, and so on). It frankly jars the eye and looks a bit sloppy, like the person was in too much of a rush or couldn't be bothered to write the date properly, but I think a lot of advertising people like to follow the American models in the hope of their material seeming more dynamic. Or perhaps they just don't know any better.

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Generally, ordinals are <i>not</i> used with day of the month (Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed., 9:32). When writing just the day of the month, generally, the day is spelled out; otherwise, use cardinal numbers:

My birthday is August 26.

We are flying to Florida next month, on the fifteenth.

In your example, "the August 1 card" is more correct—in both Canada and the US.

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I prefer August 1st, but I have seen the other use. I can't cite any authority.

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