Bloody Well Write

April 22, 2009

Referencing months or How time flies when you’re having (grammatical) fun

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It seems to be so true: Time absolutely stands still when you’re watching the proverbial pot boil, and it zooms past you when you’re having a decent time of it. It also goes by a lot faster with every month of your existence, doesn’t it? Hmmm? Just sayin’.

Yes, well, it does — except in AP Stylebook terms. The way to treat months in copy is pretty clear and pretty stable as far as those folks are concerned. So let’s try to slow time down a bit while we’re having all this fun with grammar.

Across the board, the specific months are capitalized:

When including a specific date, abbreviate only:

  • Jan.
  • Feb.
  • Aug.
  • Sept.
  • Oct.
  • Nov.
  • Dec.

When calling out only a month and year, the year is not set off with commas;
when calling out a month, day and year, the year is set off with commas:

  • My middle finger was slammed in the front door in September 1971; I have the scar to prove it.
  • Sept. 16 was quite a memorable day.
  • Her birthday is May 18.
  • July 3, 1971, was a sad, sad day for Doors fans.
  • Friday, Nov. 27, will be a great day to do some serious shopping.

One last thing: Be careful when referring to ambiguous dates in the past or the future. If it’s May and you say, “I’m going to buy a car next July,” does that mean you’re going to buy one in two months or in a year and two months? It may be clear to you, but it’s ain’t clear to me (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who just might be confused). I’ll tell you one thing, though — if you get a Mini, I’m going to be very, very envious, no matter in which month or year you buy it.

My orange Mini. Someday.

My orange Mini. Someday.

Remember: Getting your point across clearly is a terrific thing. Really good writers can get their readers to see exactly what they want them to see; it’s not necessarily the quantity of words they use, but the quality of words that does the job. I guess that translates into all sorts of aspects of life, doesn’t it?

Happy trails!




  1. What about 22 April 2009? I have been under the impression that is comma-free dating.

    Comment by steakchorizo — April 22, 2009 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  2. How do good writers know they are getting their readers to see exactly what they want them too see?

    Comment by brian — April 23, 2009 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

  3. The AP Stylebook does not address optional date formats, such as “22 April 2009.” The International date format set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is YYYY-MM-DD: 2009-04-22.

    Comment by bloodywellwrite — April 23, 2009 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  4. That can be a tough question to answer. Some sort of feedback is probably the most accurate way for writers to know that they are getting the point across. That feedback could come to them via a a casual or business conversation, e-mail, focus group, editorial response (either their editor(s) or newspaper editorial), hearsay, increase or decrease in book sales, increase or decrease in freelance offers, even just a personal feeling of “Hey, I know I wrote that sucker well” or “I better write another book/article/ad because I have to redeem myself.” Writers can be their own worst critics. Not all writers, but a lot. Bouncing ideas off of someone else — anyone else — can make a writer see the holes in the written word. It’s all about perspective. At least, that’s how I see it. Pa dum pum.

    Comment by bloodywellwrite — April 23, 2009 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

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