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June 05, 2009

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Comments

Srikanth

Great, never thought about it before. Thank you!

Conrado Calvet

I prefer use the 24 hr clock for schedulling, it´s a good option and it´s easier avoid misunderstadings for the people whom just pass a eye in the schedule.

Why dou you think Lynn?

Kind Regards
Conrado

Lynn

I think the 24-hour clock is an excellent idea. I find, though, that many people in the United States prefer a.m. and p.m., particularly if their business does not run 24 hours a day.

Lisa

My style manual is the American Medical Association's Manual of Style, which avoids using punctuation in abbreviations (up to and including MD, eg, and ie). It's one of the hardest things for people to get used to when they start writing at my company. The other hard thing for people to remember is not spelling out numbers unless they start a sentence -- even numbers under 10! You can see a brief overview of AMA style here:
http://www.docstyles.com/archive/amastat.pdf

Lynn

Lisa, thanks so much for sharing the information and a resource. It is helpful to know about the differences.

I can understand how new employees struggle with the punctuation and number rules. I am glad you have a style sheet to support the new writers--and the rules.

Sue

What about a period of time? If a function runs from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. Or is it 5 - 7 p.m.?

John

Actually, in a business context, it is best to ALWAYS use zeros (4:00). Though this rule can "bend" for native speakers, if you are working with internationals, it's better to have a consistent rule that is applied at all times.

Also, when using the 24-hour clock (a norm for those outside North America), you should use a leading zero to avoid confusion (04:00 rather than 4:00).

Finally, it's important to avoid being draconian when writing emails. A new register has actually been created for emails: neutral. So there is formal for letters and legal/offical matters, informal for person correspondence and neutral for business email correspondence.

dyhlon

What about if the 4 P.M. is at the end of the sentence? Do you need to put another period?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Sue, one mention of "p.m." is sufficient when your meaning is obvious.

John, thank you for mentioning international audiences and their needs.

Dyhlon, you need only one period at the end of the sentence. Two periods would be incorrect.

Lynn

Christine Clinton

I also write AM and PM without the periods or the spaces. I always thought that writing A.M. or a.m. or P.M. or p.m. was not the correct way of writing that. I guess I am an old stick in the mud, and since I hate change, or newer ways of doing things, I am going to stick with writing AM and PM. It might be wrong, or grammatically incorrect, but it is what I am used to.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Christine, you are not an old stick-in-the-mud. You are on the cutting edge! Only some style manuals have begun to leave out the periods in question. My "Handbook of Business English," first published in 1914, includes them.

You didn't know how modern you are.

Lynn

Ben

Is it proper to write: At 4p.m. this afternoon we will be meeting. . .
Is it improper to add the word 'afternoon' if you have stated that the time is 4 p.m.?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Ben. It is redundant to write "4 p.m. in the afternoon." However, "4 p.m. this afternoon" does clarify which afternoon (for example, not tomorrow afternoon).

A better choice is "4 p.m. today."

Lynn

Mister Nice Guy

Any answer to:
"What about a period of time? If a function runs from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. Or is it 5 - 7 p.m.?"

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Mister Nice Guy. I belatedly answered Sue's question on May 1, 2010:

One mention of "p.m." is sufficient when your meaning is obvious.

Lynn

Sally Kelly

What is the correct way to write 12 midnight or 12 noon

Is the 12 noon, 12:00p.m. or 12:00 a.m.?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Sally, many reference books recommmend simply "midnight" or "noon." However, if you are entering that time with a list of other times, use "12 midnight" or "12 noon." Using the number alone with a.m. or p.m. can be confusing in some contexts, so avoid that approach.

Lynn

Mircalla

Hi Lynn,

I've been searching online for the proper way to list an event day, date and time and came across this blog post. Perhaps you can help? Is the following the correct way:

XYZ panel takes place on Tuesday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Thanks in advance for any clarification!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Mircalla. Your sentence looks fine. You would also be correct to write "11 a.m." (without the zeros), especially if you have no other times to list.

Lynn

John Snakenborg

Did you notice the time stamps here - capital letters, no punctuation. Now what?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, John. Interesting question! It appears that TypePad, the host for this blog, follows the style of "The Chicago Manual of Style" and "Garner's Modern American Usage" (see above), more or less.

Pa

Dear Lynn,
How would I write a time when asking a question?

Example: Are you available at 4p.m.?

Would I have the periods between the "p" and the "m" and then put the question mark?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Your example is almost correct. You need a space between the 4 and the p, like this:

Are you available at 4 p.m.?

Lynn

Todd

Hi Lynn!

How would time zone abbreviations fit into this equation?

Thanks!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Todd. Search for my post "It's About Time: Clock Time" in the search box at upper right.

Lynn

Todd

Thanks!

Nina

May I say 12:30 noon

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Nina. No, "12:30 noon" is never correct. Noon can only be 12 o'clock--not 12:30.

Lynn

Steve

How do you handle time zones? i.e. 4:00 p.m. CT

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Steve. I prefer to spell out time zones so readers will recognize them. Read more here:
http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2006/05/its_about_time_.html

Lynn

Joel

I question the requirement of spaces before the am/pm, for modern practicality uses. Not everyone knows how to use non-breaking spaces, and if that isn’t used, then, particularly on websites and in Email where one cannot guarantee the same fonts, browser width (especially relevnt for fluid layouts, which are coming back into style due to smartphones), etc., the possibility exists of word-wrap causing the time to appear at the end of a line, and the am/pm at the beginning of the next line, like so:

“The fun starts at 7
p.m. and lasts until
midnight!”

This cannot happen if you use, for instance, “7pm”.

Of course, the best solution is to just learn to use non-breaking spaces as needed.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Joel, you make an excellent point. I will be interested to see if the writing style guides catch up with your idea.

Thanks for taking the time to share your view.

Lynn

Arvind Parekh

a.m. and p.m. creates doubt in some contries. i suggest it will be better to use 24 hours clock time.so no doubt is there isn`t it?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Arvind. I agree that companies who write to people around the globe should consider using the 24-hour clock.

Thanks for commenting.

Lynn

Patty Giovingo

If you are writing the time range 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., do you have to include the a.m., or is it okay to write 11:00-1:00 p.m.?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Patty. It is not acceptable to use p.m. without a.m., as your example does. It would be too confusing for readers.

Lynn

Kathy

I can't find much support for my way of thinking, but using lowercase letters and periods just looks "old school" to me. I've worked as a tech writer for more than 30 years (much of it in IT), and it just looks cleaner to omit the periods.

"The upgrade is scheduled for 7:00 am tomorrow."

"The upgrade is scheduled for 7:00 pm tomorrow."

I agree that when used in a sentence, the morning designation without periods COULD be read as the word "am," and yet I don't worry about this since the context is clear.

That's my opinion, and I'm stickin' to it! :-)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Kathy. You are correct that reference manuals don't agree with you, not even "Microsoft Manual of Style," which was published this year.

I felt the same way about the word "gray." I wanted to spell it "grey," the British way, because it looked right to me. But living and working in the US, I decided to give up my preference and use "gray."

Good luck with your choice.

Lynn

AC

You would think finding this information would be relatively simple, straight-forward and easy, given the amount of technology at our fingertips. However, I've been searching for nearly 15 minutes on this, which is really too much time, and I'm still frustrated. I have the St. Martin's Guide to Library and Research Documenting, which lists AMA, APA, CBE, and Note-and-Bibliography styles for just about everything, but it also lists abbreviations for time, acronyms, geographical names, and a few other things that are shared amongst all styles. The proper format for time is lower case with periods. It also explains that a.m. is ante meridiem, "before noon" and p.m. is post meridiem, "after noon". This makes sense as to why the periods are necessary, though I don't know how consistent it is across all Latin translations like that. For example, "for example" (<--haha!) we use "e.g.", but for "and others" we use "et al." and not "et. al."

Anyway, I'm going to go with lower case and periods even though it's a pain. And as for gray/grey- I realize that after I read that, I actually search it every time I write it because I'm never sure. I'm not even sure if I search grey or gray, but since both ways are correct, whichever one I search comes up so I use it and assume it's right. That is probably the reason I never know which is right because they are both right! (I have no idea if that last part made sense or not.) :)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, AC. Life is full of complexity, isn't it?

I am happy to tell you that the "et" in "et al." has no period because it is not an abbreviation. The phrase when spelled out is "et alia."

Regarding "grey" and "gray," "gray" is preferred in the United States. I am not certain which is preferred in other countries.

Thank you for stopping by.

Lynn

zky

Hi Lynn,

What is the correct order/style when you write a sentence which contains following parts: time, day, month, year, day of the week? What is the correct order of those parts? Thanks!

zky

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Zky, here is an example to answer your question:

I will see you on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 11 a.m.

OR

I will see you at 11 a.m. on Wednesday,
November 28, 2012.

You do not need to include the year if it is obvious and you are not writing a legal document. In both examples above, you would simply delete the year.

Lynn

Jared

Lynn,

Thank you for this great post! My only question is how do I use proper punctuation with the examples shown. If a sentence ends with the time, do I need to insert a period after the "p.m."?

For example: I have to meet Cathy at 2 p.m.

I assume in this sentence, I would not insert a period after the time because that would look silly (2 p.m..).

However, if I write this same sentence as a question, I would obviously insert a question mark.

Do I have to meet Cathy at 2 p.m.?

Could you please clarify the rule on punctuation when the time is written at the end of a sentence?

Jared

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Jared. Both of your examples are correct. The period is not doubled in a declarative sentence, but the period does appear before a question mark.

Lynn

Marfaret Collins

What is correct?
4:00 p.m.
4:00 PM
4:00p.m.
4:00PM

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Marfaret, according to the reference guides I cited above, only 4:00 p.m. is correct.

Lynn

Randy Mintken

The first comment to this post, posted on June 06, 2009 at 04:47 AM, and the most recent, December 30, 2012 at 09:46 AM.

Ironically, for over three years the time format for this blog has been: Month Day, Year at 00:00 AM or Month Day, Year at 00:00 PM.

It seems the only .s being used these days are at the end of sentences. My child, at times, avoids them there as well. :) or :(

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Randy. Woe is us! (Woe is WE?)

When I get frustrated over a lack of punctuation, I try to remember that I can control only my own behavior, not that of others.

Good luck with your child!

Lynn

Tom

How do you explain 24 hour time?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Tom. Using a 24-hour clock makes A.M. and P.M. irrelevant.

When you said "explain 24-hour time," did you have a specific question?

Lynn

David Chamberlain

When I proofread printed material at my office, I always make the times conform to the format you have suggested (4:00 a.m.). Recent college graduates I work with accuse me of being from another planet for my preference. Since part of our operation is an AM radio station, I get some mileage out of the need to make 11:20 a.m. look different from 1120 AM. Now, don't get me started on using periods, instead of hyphens and parenthesis, in phone numbers (like 800.555.1234).

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, David. Your reason for using small letters and periods makes perfect sense. I would hope the recent college graduates would understand it.

I take it you hate the periods in phone numbers. I myself prefer hyphens, but that's another blog post, specifically "How to Format Phone Numbers." You can find it here:
http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2007/01/how_to_format_p.html

Thanks for commenting.

Lynn

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