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Rule: Fourth of July / July 4

While others comment about U.S. independence from British rule on this American holiday, I’m thinking about another rule: the rule of numbers in dates.

These numbers are rendered correctly:
     July 4 is a U.S. holiday.
     The Fourth of July is a U.S. holiday.
     The 4th of July is a U.S. holiday.
     On July 4, 1776, independence was proclaimed.

This rendering is wrong:
     July 4th is a U.S. holiday.

Rule: When the day follows the month, use a cardinal number (1, 2, 3, etc.). When the day comes before the month or stands alone, use an ordinal number, either spelled out or in figures (1st, first, 2nd, second).

Feeling tyrannized by the rules of business writing? Remember that rules abound in other disciplines that communicate: art, design, architecture, music, and many more. Breaking the rules creates new challenges for your audience.

I’ll write again on the fifth, the 5th, July 5.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

2 comments on “Rule: Fourth of July / July 4”

  • I have been searching for a long time on hyphen usage with the phrase, thank-you. I was always a grammar buff, having worked as an Editor for a time. However, now I’m finding that people are not using a hyphen at all with thank-you. See examples:

    I want to thank you for the gift.
    Thank-you for the gift.

    The above two examples illustrate how I was taught.

    Your thoughts?


  • Paula, thanks for your question. I don’t believe I have seen hyphens as you have used them with with “thank you.” In your examples you are saying “I thank you,” which needs no hyphen.

    That said, many people do use a hyphen with phrases such as “thank-you note” and “a nice thank-you.” My dictionary shows a hyphen with such uses, but none of my other reference books include the word.

    As a writer, I have dropped the hyphen in “thank you” in the belief that it will eventually disappear. If I were acting as an editor or proofreader, though, I would probably keep it a bit longer.

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