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Will You Choose the Correct Date?

Last week I taught The Keys to Error-Free Writing, a class that focuses on the current rules of business writing. Of the 62 items on the pretest, Question 6 (below) in the section on numbers was answered incorrectly more than any other question. What is your answer?

6. Choose the sentence that is rendered correctly:

  1. Please book my reservation for Saturday, June 5th.
  2. Please book my reservation for Saturday, June fifth.
  3. Please book my reservation for Saturday, June 5.

In a group of 16 people, 15 chose the wrong answer, or “Don’t know” because they were not sure.

Which did you choose?

Number 3 includes the correct rendering of the date.

Here is the 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).

“The 5th of June” is correct, but June 5th is not.

Feeling smug because you chose the right answer? Good for you! And if you chose the wrong answer, I’m glad you read this post.


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.

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