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Re: Date formats


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Apr 29, 2003 10:50PM

On Tue, 29 Apr 2003, Rachel wrote:

> We are working on a site whose users will primarily be
> U.S. citizens.

On the Web, any site intended for local or otherwise limited use will be
visited by all kinds of people.

> We need a short way to list dates because of space
> issues (as opposed to listing dates out in full, like
> April 29, 2003, for example).

First and foremost, any compact notation should be explicitly described
near the start of the page, or at least in a legend that is referred to
near the start. It is not sufficient to put it at the end, for example,
or below a table, since it will come too late then e.g. in speech mode.

> We currently display dates on this site in this
> format:
> 04.29.03

Such notations have six different interpretations. I don't think there's
any justification for not writing the year in full, limiting the
interpretations to just two and making sure that the user gets at least
the year right.

> I'm wondering if this is the most accessible format,
> in particular for screen readers. Would 4/29/03 or
> 4-29-03 be considered more accessible than using
> periods? Or something else?

I would be primarily worried about the unambiguity of the notation itself,
since that will be relevant to all people. Punctuation and leading zeros
are marginal convenience issues when compared with conveying the
information correctly.

What I specifically suggest is the internationally standardized notation,
ISO 8601, used with hyphens, e.g. 2003-04-29. Naturally it, like any
compact notation that is not universally known, should be explained
suitably. It won't take long, of course: "The dates are written in the
year-month-date notation." This notation is preferable primarily for
unambiguity, but it has other benefits too, as I've explained at

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/

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