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ElectricWhite ElectricWhite is a Female
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Why does the US put the month before the day in date format?

Maite Knorr-Evans


Around the world, most countries write the date in the following way: day/month/year.

This method is more intuitive as it moves from the smallest unit to the largest. However, in the United States, the date is written: month/date/year which causes confusion and raises many questions.

The true origins for the differences are unknown but many have speculated over the years. The most common theory relates the origins of this method being traced to the time during which the United States was a colony of the United Kingdom. Like the imperial measurement system which uses feet instead of meters, the US inherited this practice that has since mostly been abandoned in the UK.

This theory is bolstered by evidence that other former British colonies like Belize and Canada also write their date in this way. But, so does the Philippines and while it was a colony of Spain, it was subjected to US rule after the Spanish American War in the early twentieth century.

From traditional to digital

However, dates have not always been written in this format with the units differentiated by “/“, rather it comes from when dates were written out completely: January 1, 2022. When computers and digital time-keeping devices were created, programmers decided it would be easier for dates to be written 1/1/2022. While the British put the day before the month, many other countries switched the two: 1 January 2022. When adapting the dates to the “/“ format, there are differences in how different areas represent the date.

When did the United Kingdom stop using this format?

The UK changed to the day/month/year format in the twentieth century to align with most other countries, including nations in the European Union.

How are dates written in other parts of the world?

In China, Korea, Japan, and Iran dates are written year/month/day.

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If I'm dating (naming) a document for filing in the computer I'll often use year/month/day because
1. a file name can't have "/" and
2. this keeps dated docs in numerical order (eg. a file named "thingy 20220102" would be listed above or below "thingy 20220101")

Way back in primary school I was taught to write long hand dates as 1 January 2022 (or 1st January 2022), but when read aloud it should be said "the first of January two thousand and twenty two." So, it makes sense the shorthand version would be 1/1/2022. (Or even 1/1/22)

I always thought it odd that both the longhand and shorthand in the US put the month first.

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The same reason we don't use the metric system?

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