I know that the US English uses mm/dd/yyyy and the Queen's English prefers dd/mm/yyyy (and so InE).

Now imagine Mike from New York City is writing a letter to Joe in London. And the letter is official, to be filed for future reference. What format would Mike choose?

Will he stick to his format OR will understand that this is for Joe's future reference and since he knows the UK format, he'd prefer writing dd/mm/yyyy?

While it's easy to identify it from the numbers used, it is impossible to make out when the months and dates are below 12. Say...

4/8/2014 - Is it August 4 OR July 8?

I'm asking to both the native speakers -The Americans and Brits.

  • Before the days of the PC, business correspondence and I suppose even most private correspondence in the USA would spell out the month and date a letter as November 27, 1977, for example. I would do this even when writing overseas. And I would expect whatever overseas person or entity to use what is normal for them to use. I don't know about "official" documents. It was rare to just use the numerical format to date a letter, although some might use that in personal mail. I suppose that format became more popular with computers, which are more 'digit oriented'. Remember the Y2K scare? – user6951 Nov 27 '14 at 7:34
  • True. Document with such clarity is out of question. The question exists here only with those mentioning dates with strokes. :) – Maulik V Nov 27 '14 at 7:36
  • Yes, and I doubt much 'official correspondence' or international or transnational correspondence uses the stroke format. It's considered informal. And obviously leads to confusion. I would never write even a personal letter to someone in the USA with the stroke (or dash) format. It's definitely an interesting question. – user6951 Nov 27 '14 at 7:46
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    I usually date my letters like this: 2014-08-04T13:12:57.2431Z, that is never ambiguous :) – oerkelens Nov 27 '14 at 8:40
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    The U.S. military uses the non-ambiguous DD MMM YYYY format (e.g., 4 Aug 2014 vs 8 Jul 2014). I once heard someone quip that this was "the only smart thing the military ever did" – at least insofar as paperwork goes. – J.R. Nov 27 '14 at 9:24

If I am writing for an international audience, I always save any confusion by simply using the full date…

4th August 2014

Otherwise, as you point out, it could be 4th Aug or 8th July.

The confusion can be added to still further by trying to guess whether the sender assumed that being a transpondian, you would prefer to see the date in your own format, so pre-empted you & changed it to your form… or… left in in his own form assuming you would change it round in your own head later…

… therein madness lies.

| improve this answer | |
  • Or simply 4 August 2014. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 27 '14 at 12:25

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