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Time & date

When we give users the time and date, we’re really communicating several levels of information. Using a standard pattern for that information increases clarity, saving our users – and ourselves – time and effort.

When writing about events that merit a specific time, we rarely have a need for times more specific than the half-hour. There shouldn’t be any need to be more specific than the nearest 15-minute mark.

It’s not typically necessary to specify time of day beyond “morning,” “afternoon,” and so on. Avoid using “am” and “pm” with phrases like “morning” and “evening.” 

Time & date elements

 

Time

  • Note
    • Use a 12-hour format
    • Follow the time with a space
    • Use am/pm in lowercase letters with no periods
  • Example
    • 3:24 pm

Day of the week

  • Note
    • Use a three-letter abbreviation with no period
    • Capitalize the first letter
  • Example
    • Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat

Month

  • Note
    • Use a three-letter abbreviation with no period
    • Capitalize the first letter
  • Example
    • Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

Date

  • Note
    • Always use numerals
  • Example
    • Mar 31

Year

  • Note
    • Only include when needed
    • Always use all four digits 
  • Example
    • 2019

US vs. international date style

We use US English, except when we know with certainty that our audience speaks UK English. We use US date style for this reason.

Time and date elements should always be displayed in this order, with a comma between each of these elements:

  • Time, day of the week, month + date, year
  • Example: 10:14 am, Mon, Oct 14, 2019

Formatting

When displayed in a single line, each element is separated with a comma.

When time and date are displayed as a graphical element, that comma can be removed if the designer chooses to:

  • Place each element on its own line
  • Vary the size of each element
  • Use other techniques to separate elements

Timestamps

In general use, there shouldn’t be a need to be more specific about time than the nearest 15 minutes.

Timestamps are an exception. Because they are an indicator of exactly when a post was made or information was refreshed. They require a level of specificity that requires every time and date element to be used, every time.

They have two primary formats: elapsed time and time updated. They appear as follows:

Elapsed time

  • Updated less than a minute ago
  • Updated just now
  • Updated 1 minute ago
  • Updated 20 minutes ago

Note that this timestamp style uses numerals instead of words for numbers below 10.

Time updated

  • Updated 2:00 pm, Tue Nov 12, 2019
  • Updated 1:34 pm, Wed Nov 13
  • Updated 5:40 am, Thu
  • Updated 12:02 pm

Time and date ranges

We often need to communicate ranges of time and date, e.g., pool hours, applicable dates for offers. While it’s up to each writer to determine the clearest way to communicate information, here are two effective rules of thumb:

  • Separate start and end points with a space, an en dash, and a space
  • Remove information repeated at both ends of the range, unless it will change during the time range

Examples

  • Beachside yoga class: 2 – 3:30 pm
  • Lunch hours: 10:30 am – 1:15 pm, Mon – Fri
  • Pool hours: 7 am – 12 am

Time zones

It should be clear from context which time zone you are writing about. If it isn’t, use the common abbreviations found at timeanddate.com.

Examples

Book a meeting at Hilton New York Midtown by Nov 21, 2019 for 10 – 30% off standard seasonal group rates.

Last updated: 11:08 am, Mon, Oct 14, 2019

Dodge the rush hour madness. Kick back in our lounge, open 3:30 every afternoon.