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Today Is 1/11/11–Or Is It?

In the United States, today is 1/11/11. In much of the rest of the world, it's 11/1/11.

That difference is enough to argue against using numbers alone. Although all those 1s look terrific together, numbers alone can't communicate with the clarity of words, especially if you have clients, employees, or business partners around the world.

So, to be clear:

Today is January 11, 2011, or 11 January 2011.

Do you agree?

Syntax Training

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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.

15 comments on “Today Is 1/11/11–Or Is It?”

  • I used “1/11/11” today without a problem (I’m fairly sure), knowing that those reading were in the United States.

    Let’s look forward to 11/11/11 when their won’t be any possibility of confusion. 🙂

  • November 11, 2011. I will certainly be planning for that day. Would not have thought of it if it had not been mentioned and presented. Thank you Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. I have Johnstons in my heritage too. Irish I am sure. Pamela Bunting Lewis…not my birth name. It is my only legal name. 1/11/11.

  • As a mind mapper I would map the date as year, month, day, time starting from the centre of the map radiating outdated. in this way you can branch out from each adding more detail. in other words from the year you can add all months and from each month you can add every day.
    To me the two commonly used date formats are illogical.

  • I used “11 January 2011”

    I was educated in Ireland, where we were taught to write the date in numerical format, day/month/year. However, now that I’m working with international colleagues (and often using North American versions of software) I prefer to spell out the month to avoid confusion, but still adhere to the order of day/month/year.

  • I like (and use for my personal documents) Tim’s system. It works well for sorting lists chronologically when you have a “date” column in programs like Word and Excel and for filing. A little tidbit: This is the order used in the Basque language.

  • The international standard for writing dates (ISO 8601) mandates a year-month-day format thus: 2011-01-11.

    This is used in many countries and has two advantages: It makes it easier to sort dates because the largest unit comes first, and it matches the way we write time (hour:minute:second), which also starts with the largest unit.

  • Thanks for writing, everyone. As your comments illustrate, there are many ways of writing the date, with a variety of reasons supporting them. I like best the ways with the month spelled out, although I appreciate the international standard and the mapping method.

    Pamela, I do not know anything about the 11:11 doorway.

    I will plan to write about dates again this year on November 11!


  • I always use xxxx-xx-xx (year-month-date) for titling things electronically because it automatically arranges them chronologically. It too makes more sense to me as Tim says.

  • Hi, Jennifer. The only risk you run is the possibility that people will not be certain which number is the month. However, that risk is not likely.

    Thanks for mentioning the advantage of the listing by chronological order.


  • I use the ISO year-month-date format so file names and other data will sort, but otherwise prefer lettered months for clarity. The airlines were the first to suffer from this problem, and that’s why months are always lettered on airline ticket documentation.

    I also always write the year in four digits (2012) and not two (12). This quickly shows the reader it’s a year and not the 12th of the month or December.

    To further solidify your reader’s grip on upcoming dates, add the day of the week. Friday, February 3, 2012, is instantly clear to anyone with even basic English. Adding the day of the week also forces the writer to check one last time that the date is correct.


  • Great advice, George. I especially like your suggestion to add the day of the week. Yet I often find in the invitations I receive that the day of the week does not agree with the date. People need to check, then check again.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.


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