04 Feb Writing Dates and Numbers Correctly
We are sometimes confused about how to write dates and numbers correctly in English, so here are a few tips:
The reason you may have seen different formats is that writing dates in British (and Australian) is different from the American format:
- 16 April 2016: British (and Australian) English
- April 16, 2016: American English.
We should note that in the UK and Australia/New Zealand, we would normally say “the sixteenth of April 2016”.
When abbreviating dates, there is also a difference in the order between the British/Australian and American format:
- 16/04/2016 or 16/04/16: British (and Australian) English
- 04/16/2016 or 04/16/16: American English.
With writing numbers in a text, the problem is to know when it is standard to use the word, and when just the figure is sufficient. Here are some of the main guidelines:
- Write small numbers up to ten as words. So, “there are three main rules, but 90% of people do not know them!”
- Don’t start a sentence with a figure. So instead of “20 people attended the meeting”, in a formal (or semi-formal) text, you should write: “Twenty people attended the meeting”.
- Centuries and decades should really be spelled out in words. Use “the nineties” and “the “twentieth century”, rather than “the 90’s” and “the 20th century.”
Whatever you do, remember than in English we separate thousands with commas, and use a point before a decimal (so completely opposite from in Spanish):
- In 2015, Chile had an estimated 8,000 wine grape producers. Of Chile’s total wine production that year, 36.2 per cent corresponded to Cabernet Sauvignon.
A QUICK NOTE ON BILLIONS
It is worth noting that until recently a British billion was a million millions. Today however, the British use the same standard as in the USA: a billion is a thousand millions. If talking about billions, though, it is worth checking that everybody knows exactly what you are referring to!