The U.S. Date Format: Going Rogue

Map of Date FormatsWhen I think of American exceptionalism, I don’t think of grand political theories. Instead, I think of how the U.S. is one of only five countries that uses the Farenheit scale for everyday applications (the others being the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Palau).

Even more exceptional is the fact that the U.S. is the only country to state dates using the mm-dd-yyyy format. That’s why we’re the only country in red in the map to the right. Go here for ruminations about this on Reddit.

This sort of exceptionalism seems unhelpful. For one thing, it can create confusion: when it comes to dates, 10/6/15 could mean October 6, 2015 (US) or 10 June 2015 (elsewhere).

If you have the urge to strike a blow for rationality, you could start using in contracts and elsewhere the format dd-mm-yyyy, which is used by the countries in blue in the map. If you state the month as a word instead of a number, no confusion would be possible, so no one would have a good reason to object. (Mind you, for some people, lack of a good reason wouldn’t be an obstacle.)

I might make this change for my personal use.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.