4

In America the date format is mm/dd/yyyy but in Europe its written dd/mm/yyyy, what is the reasoning behind the American format, surely the most used piece of info in that string is dd so why put forward the month first ?

7

It seems it is just convention, as you can also see at this discussion. The American format follows the phrase "November fifth", while the European one follows "the fifth of November".

When designing an interface you might find useful having fields with the name of the month, like 05 - Nov - 2013 or Nov - 05 -2013 instead of using numbers and guidelines/explanations of the format you are using.

  • Yes. Just don't do what WordPress does -- when dating posts, it displays dates in the American order, but with the month number and the name. So July 4 is 07-Jul 4 This often confuses me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. – Bennett McElwee Jul 21 '13 at 23:44
  • @BennettMcElwee: You'd have to dig into the format strings explanation, but you can get WordPress to display dates any way you like. Somewhere in the settings pages for the site admin. – Marjan Venema Jul 22 '13 at 7:25
  • @Marjan, the problem occurs when you are entering dates, not displaying them; as far as I know, this is not configurable (except possibly for the language used for the month names). – Bennett McElwee Jul 22 '13 at 8:49
  • @BennettMcElwee: Ah, I never do that... :-) – Marjan Venema Jul 22 '13 at 17:51
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While your question is valid, your underlying assumptions are not.

surely the most used piece of info in that string is dd

Really? The question of what part of the date a user might be interested in, is really not all that easy to answer. It really depends on the application. Sometimes the day might be most relevant, but for other purposes the month, year or even century might be what the user is looking for.

Iso format

If you're looking for a really rational way to format dates, you should look at the ISO format yyyy mm dd (the spacing is optional, really). In this format, you put the most significant (as in: largest contribution to the total value) piece of information first, just like you do with every other number. Benefits include that this format sorts naturally in chronological order.

  • 2
    Obligatory relevant XKCD – Kit Grose Jul 23 '13 at 0:41
  • Sometimes the night might be most relevant. And if you are Jewish, the night belongs to the following day. That is: the day begins at sunset. This is the reason for phrases like "New Year's Eve" - the evening before New Year's Day. It comes from Genesis, which says things like "And there was evening, and there was morning: the first day." To me, this means the scholars got it backwards - Genesis is explicitly saying that the first day ended after the first night, as the next day dawned, which is common sense. But that was so long ago now. Who really cares? – user67695 Mar 15 '17 at 18:20

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