We currently display dates using the format DD-MM-YYYY. We've explored the idea of removing the dashes from this format. However after doing so we feel the list is harder to scan, without dashed.

What we can't figure is why. Does anyone know the reason the dash list is easier to scan?

Thanksenter image description here

  • 3
    I don't find the dash list easier to scan. Are you sure it isn't just your familiarity with the existing format?
    – user31143
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 10:28
  • Familiarity is something I have considered, however 100% of our team agreed with the dashes which is why I hoped there may be some science behind it.
    – user78437
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 10:40
  • space is better if they are aligned Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 10:45
  • I agree with @dan1111, wasn't 100% of your team familiar with dashes? Therefore, I think that you have to focus on scan in case of different months, or this screen is about only one month?
    – panna
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 11:56
  • I think it is just the dashes create an obvious visual separator between units. The space version is as easy (if not easier) because we have plenty of practice grouping dates in our mind, the dashes throw off our expectations and make it harder to group them, but if you look at it not like a date (i.e. just scan down the first row of day numbers) the dashes help set them apart.
    – DasBeasto
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 13:58

4 Answers 4



The dashes make the dates easier for users to read because they make the date into one word rather than three separate words that the user must combine into one word in their heads.

You should strongly consider using the ISO date format: “YYYY-MM-DD” including the dashes.

There are 3 good reasons for this:

1) when alphabetized, this format sorts all of the days of a particular month into that month, and all the months of a particular year into that year, which is what you want almost all of the time

2) it is unambiguous — some regions use MM-DD-YYYY and some regions use DD-MM-YYYY so is 11-09-2015 November 9th or September 11th? there is no way to know, whereas with 2015-11-09 that can only be November 9th

3) it’s the ISO date format and you get all the benefits of standardization such as it is understandable worldwide by humans and it is easy to work with in software development environments — for example if you want to localize your dates for a particular region, there is likely a built-in function in your programming environment that creates a date object from a text string containing an ISO date, then you use that date object to write out any other date format, but you still store your dates internally as unambiguous ISO dates


I agree that in your screenshot, the dashes version is easier on the eyes. This is because in the left version the gaps between the day/month/year create a figure/ground problem -- that is, the vertical "river" appears more prominent than the individual type chunks. Your brain is trying to make a vertical pattern, instead of reading across each line. (Hope this makes sense.)


In general I wouldn't say that dashes make dates easier to scan, however...

From looking at your screenshot, the dashes do make the date a little easier to scan in this scenario because it makes the day month year look like they are grouped together relative to the time component (gestalt principles). i.e. in the spaces only version your brain groups them as

<1> <2> <3> <4> 

rather than

<date> <time> 

You could achieve the same effect without dashes in the date if you make the space between the date component and time component noticeably larger that the space between day month year.


I assume you're finding the dashed list "easier to scan" because dashes make your dates appear as single strings.

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