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My organization's website has an upcoming events tool and we are trying to figure out what is the best way to format time for an event. For example, we currently have the format display like this:

10:00am-5:00pm

I would like to know what is the best way to format time that follows best practices. Others have suggested formatting it like this

10 am to 5 pm

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  • Either seems fine. If you've remote employees or customers that span timezones, then maybe specify timezone, but that probably isn't necessary. Best practice principles that come before all others: KISS and YAGNI, so I'd go with that 10:00 to 5:00. Its short, and its very clearly referring to time. Some could argue ambiguity, but it would be deliberate. Implied local timezone, non-military time, during the day. – Andrew Hoffman Sep 1 '15 at 17:34
  • If you want to be understood and taken seriously by international visitors, use the 24-hour clock. – Crissov Sep 1 '15 at 20:37
  • You ask for a best way, but give no context of who the users are, which country etc. In its current form, the question is not far from asking 'how long is a piece of string'. Please provide more contextual details and help others to help you. – Izhaki Sep 2 '15 at 0:35
  • The users are Los Angeles County Residents from California, United States. Each event has its own page and the time is currently displayed in a box. You can view an example below: lacare.org/events/2015-downtown-street-market-0 Here is another example: lacare.org/events/informal-13th-annual-rubber-ducky-festival – jaramos Sep 2 '15 at 16:31
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Context is very important here. Are the events and times presented in a list or are the times included in a paragraph of text. (Or both depending on the screen?)

If you have a lot of events and all the times are during normal working hours then the AM and PM may not be necessary.

Lecture 1 ---- Location A ----- 10:00 - 11:30
Lecture 2 ---- Location B ----- 10:00 -  1:00
Lecture 3 ---- Location A ----- 12:00 -  2:00

In circumstances such as what was listed above you may safely leave the AM and PM out as the times would be "understood." There are, of course, many scenarios where that would not be the case (hotel or airline reservations).

In any case be consistent and be as clear as possible. (Which to me means to drop the AM and PM if understood but include if not). Lots of people (myself included) find it visually more appealing if the AM and PM are set in small caps. However most style manuals are in favor of using a lower case am and pm. For instance the Chicago Manual of Style says that:

Instead of AM and PM (in small caps), p.m. and a.m. -- with lowercase and periods -- are the preferred way to indicate time of day. Other abbreviations traditionally set in small caps would now be full caps.

Should zeros be used in time displays?

The answer depends on scanability which can be measured by using the 5 second test. Namely are people able to locate and absorb the time without the use of :00 for minutes.

Test your users. Which is easier to read, easier to scan among a large amount of text: "The meeting is at 10. Or the meeting is at 10:00" ?

On a list view I think it would depend if all the events begin and end on the hour. In that case the ":00" would be superfluous and may very well be an unnecessary detail.

(Although I, as a user myself, gravitate toward the :00 notation.)

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