For about three years I’ve been writing my dates YYYY MM DD, but until today I didn’t know the name of this style. It is called “ISO 8601” and there is an excellent summary of it by Markus Kuhn (far better than Wikipedia’s lame attempt to describe it) here:
Some points he observes:
- easily readable and writeable by software (no ‘JAN’, ‘FEB’, … table necessary)
- easily comparable and sortable with a trivial string comparison
- language independent
- can not be confused with other popular date notations
- consistency with the common 24h time notation system, where the larger units (hours) are also written in front of the smaller ones (minutes and seconds)
- strings containing a date followed by a time are also easily comparable and sortable (e.g. write “1995-02-04 22:45:00”)
- the notation is short and has constant length, which makes both keyboard data entry and table layout easier
- identical to the Chinese date notation, so the largest cultural group (>25%) on this planet is already familiar with it 🙂
- date notations with the order “year, month, day” are in addition already widely used e.g. in Japan, Korea, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and a few other countries and people in the U.S. are already used to at least the “month, day” order
- a 4-digit year representation avoids overflow problems after 2099-12-31
- As dates will look a little bit strange anyway starting with 2000-01-01 (e.g. like 1/1/0), it has been suggested that the year 2000 is an excellent opportunity to change to the standard date notation.
I’ve mainly been using it for computer files, but I think I’ll start writing the dates on my checks that way as of now. With periods though, not slashes. Personal preference.
A sidenote: In “ISO 8601” you’d assume that the I stands for International and the S for Standards. And the O for orgasm. But you’d be wrong. (I was). This site says “The organization is usually referred to simply as ISO (pronounced eye-so). It is a common misconception that ISO stands for International Standards Organization, or something similar. ISO is not an acronym; it comes from the Greek word isos, meaning equal. In English its name is International Organization for Standardization, while in French it is called Organisation Internationale de Normalisation; to use an acronym would result in different acronyms in English (IOS) and French (OIN), thus the founders of the organization chose ISO as the universal short form of its name. However it should be noted that ISO also identifies itself as the International Organization for Standardization in its own reports.” (Given their desire for standards, these variations of interpretation of the “ISO” must surely drive the “ISO” members to distraction).