January 1 Doesn’t Need an “st”

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The first thing I do when trying out a new WordPress theme is get rid of the code that puts “th” and other such terminals after the number in a date.

Ex. January 1st, November 12th

Dates, like certain other written expressions, assume certain information on the part of the reader:

One writes January 1, but says “January first.”
One writes November 12, but says “November twelfth.”

The only time to use the “th, nd, rd” and “st” with numbers is with ordinal numbers.

Ordinal numbers are those used to indicate a progression.
Ex. first, second, third, fourth, fifth and so on. When written as numerals, they take the little terminals: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th

Some other words that assume information on the part of the reader are:

Xmas – so spelled, but meant to be pronounced “Christmas.”
Mr. – pronounced “Mister.”
Mrs. – Now pronounced “Missus,” which is a reduction of earlier “Mistress.”

On the other hand, the only way to pronounce the politically correct Ms seems to be “Miz.”

By the way, if you want to get rid of the “th” after dates on your site, find the code
(‘l, F jS, Y’) and delete the S.

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30 thoughts on “January 1 Doesn’t Need an “st””

  1. An interesting article, but in English English (in the UK), when the full date is written it is customary to include the ‘th’, ‘st’ or ‘rd’. It would be quite odd indeed to leave them out. Mind you it would be odd to write January 1 to begin with. It is almost always expected that the month follow the day. We would normally write 1st January 2008 for instance.

    Also it’s considered incorrect to ever write Xmas, despite its widespread use.

  2. Yeah I think the first question is whether it is correct or not. Afterwards it is a matter of style or preference.

    What do you think Maeve?

  3. I was brought up on the Walsh Plain English Handbook in which the date without the “th” embellishment is given as the rule to be observed (514c): Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492.

    Likewise the most recent edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style gives the form for a date as August 9, 1988.

    In my opinion adding “th” or “st” to a date is unnecessary and, to my American eyes, incorrect. I will continue to stamp it out of any WordPress theme I use!

  4. Hi Maeve,
    Picking up on another aspect of your post (maybe something you’ve covered before; apologies if so!). I was always taught that an abbreviation need not end in a full stop/period if the final letter of the abbreviated word is included. Thus I don’t put one after Mr or Mrs. Have you ever heard of this convention?
    All the best,


  5. Charlie,
    Yes, I know about this rule. It makes a lot of sense to me. I know that it is observed in French. According to the British grammar text I use (it’s very old) the author says that the period is “optional” at the end of an abbreviation that ends with the same letter the word ends with.

    The Walsh Handbook prescribes the period after Mr., Mrs., and Dr. I can’t find a stated rule in Strunk and White, but there are many examples in which the period is used after Mr., Jr., and the like. I believe that this must be American usage.

    I have ignored the rule in a previous article about the use of CE and BCE. The rule calls for these notations to be written C.E. and B.C.E., but I found it tedious so I left them out. My bad.

    Another word on writing dates — The way I write the date in my own letters is 16 December 2007.

  6. In my (Australian) experience, the terminals are still considered completely correct, if a tad old-fashioned. Reasonably unusual on a business letter, reasonably normal on a personal letter or a diary entry etc. I’d certainly see nothing strange or offensive about seeing them on a blog, or not seeing them, for that matter. I suspect the date order (1 September vs September 1) follows the same pattern as the short date (12/16 in US, 16/12 in UK and former colonies like us). Out loud, we’d normally say “The sixteenth of December”, rather than “December sixteenth”, so it sort of makes sense.

  7. This is such an interesting post. I assumed that in American English the endings were supposed to be there but I guess not. To me, it looks more elegant when they’re not there.
    I’m going to eliminate them too! 🙂

  8. If one places the day first when speaking, it’s logical to write 12 January or 12th January. It’s equally logical, if one says January 12 in speaking, to write January 12.

    And yes, since we pronounce the “th” in speaking, we can argue that logic requires us to write January 12th and not January 12.

    However, when we talk about monarchs, we read “Henry VIII” as “Henry the Eighth.” Logic is not always the most reliable guide when it comes to language.

    This seems to be one of those “You say to-ma-to, I say to-mah-to” things. As long as one writes the name or a recognizable abbreviation of the month, no problem need arise.

    Writers should probably follow the form that prevails in their country of residence. Publishers will want to address the question in their style sheet and adopt one specific form for stylistic consistency.

    And Americans in England will need to be careful when the dentist’s receptionist gives them an appointment card with the notation 3/8/08. They may think their next appointment is for March 8 when it’s really for August 3!

  9. What an interesting read; post and comments.

    I’m from the U.K. and I’ve always used the ‘st’ and ‘th’. I’m not an expert, but it seems logical to me, since that’s the way it’s said.

    As for the month before day, what on earth is that all about? There’s some things I just don’t get about America. I don’t mind someone saying, “January 9th”, but when you write down the figures, why confuse the world by writing 1/9/08? Surely day/month/year is logical?

    Sorry for the rant.

  10. Hello,

    You wrote: “Ordinal numbers are those used to indicate a progression.”

    Wouldn’t this be a strong argument for using terminals when writing dates as the number signifies the progression of the month?

  11. i am a malayali(INDIAN) ,knowing english little .but i want to study english and to speak english well.what can i do for that??

  12. I can see both sides of the issue.

    I personally prefer “February 25th” instead of “February 25” because today is the twenty-fifth day of February. However, you can also read it as day twenty-five of February. It’s all personal preference.

    To #8 Armen: As an American myself, I’ve gotten fed up with our dates more recently, because

    1. they don’t sort well (month, day, oh, and THEN year instead of an easier-for-a-computer-to-recognize day, month, year) and

    2. the rest of the world thinks the date is otherwise (this leads to confusion)

    I now date things with the ISO 8601 standard, “2008-02-25.” It leaves no confusion as to which number is referring to what (because it’s a progression of largest to smallest), the Americans get their day after the month, and the Europeans get everything in order. And it sorts -perfectly- in a spreadsheet or data table.

    BTW I think it’s funny that the timestamp for this blog has it listed as “Decembe 17, 2007” but all the comments have “December 17th, 2007,” all on an article that asserts the -th is incorrect. 😛 Ah, don’t you just love English?

  13. I can answer this one. You do NOT include the “th” on the date UNLESS you put the date before the month. It is correct to say the 25th of January but not January 25th. It cannot be one or the other… if the day is in front of the month you add “th” if it follows the month you do NOT add “th”.

    Let me give you another example…. On day 1 of your vacation you went to the beach. OR The first day of your vacation you went to the beach. In this situation it depends if the number falls before or after the word “day”…. since the number is referring to how many “days”. We all agree that you wouldn’t say On day 1st of your vacation…. nor would you say “The 1 day of your vacation…” Does that make sense? The same rule applies for dates!

  14. I was brought up on the Walsh Plain English Handbook in which the date without the “th” embellishment is given as the rule to be observed (514c): Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492.

    And how do you pronounce that? I read it as “October twelve, fourteen ninety two”, not “October twelfth” as you claim in the article; if I wanted to reader to say “October twelfth”, I’d certainly write “12th” (but I wouldn’t say that before a year, either)

  15. Peter,
    I read “October 12” as “October twelfth.” I read “Henry VIII” as “Henry the Eighth.” I read “Xmas” as “Christmas.” There’s such a thing as convention.

  16. I’m a public librarian and also do PR for a public library. I’m constantly after other staff not to submit events using the suffixes after the dates. When I’ve noticed this more and more frequently in writing everywhere including reputable news sites where one would have hoped the writers were trained properly (every academic and professional style source I’ve found says NO NO NO to st, rd, th, etc. after dates). I blame word processing programs that automatically put such suffixes into superscript if you write them. “If the program does this, then it must be correct.” This and the constant misuse of the possessive Apostrophe S for plurals have become my top pet peeves. I’ve also noticed that the dates for the comment posts on this web page use the suffixes.

  17. Did anyone else find it slightly hilarious that the line above the comments keeps stating
    X on January the 12th, 13th etc?


  18. Yes, I like the date format for comments as well. I have to say, I personally love the Japanese date standard of YYYY.MM.DD (i.e. 2009.02.14 ). It leaves very little confusion and all of the dates sort beautifully on my computer.

  19. As a commercial print proofreader, I use The Gregg Reference Manual. It indicates that for dates the numeral should stand alone, but for ordinals (as, for example, in street names) the letters should be added.

    Gregg also has a general guideline for abbreviations (and it includes the ordinals in that category), to use the shortest form that can be used without sacrificing clarity of meaning. In the case of ordinals, they prefer to drop the “r” from “rd” (3d instead of 3rd) and the “n” from “nd” (2d instead of 2nd), although they indicate these are alternate forms. Other than in Gregg, I have never seen these numerals written this way, and do not edit out the “r” or “n” when I encounter them (in ordinals used correctly), because I believe it would look like a typo to customers and their audiences–at least in my part of the U.S.

  20. I am always amazed at how strongly people assert their rules. It looks to me as if Maeve’s “to may to / to mah to” comment is the reasonable way to look at this.

    In Quebec, Canada, we have the confusion of living in two languages, which creates even further problems. Thus, in French, I use the International format YYYY-MM-DD (only, in French, it would be “aaaa-mm-jj”) and, in English, I can use either the MM/DD/YYYY or the DD/MM/YYYY or the YYYY/MM/DD formats. That is why I, personally prefer to use the International format all the time, in order to avoid any misunderstandings in either language. Unfortunately, the computer software does not always allow for it.

    Also, I write February 14, 2011 but, if the year is not included, then I write February 14th. The Canadian Style – A Guide to Writing and Editing allows for both formats.

    Having the “Old Country” as our birth mother, yet living next door to the U.S., where most of our books come from, leads us to many such compromises. Add to that, the French factor here in Quebec and you find many confused Anglophones who spend a lot of time trying to get it right.

    In my entourage, I am known as a stickler for proper grammar and spelling (partly in self-defence against the awful inroads people –myself included– using two languages interchangeably can wreak); however, given the complexities of the English-speaking world, it is better (and less stressful) to keep a reasonable perspective on it all. Hence my “you do it your way and I’ll do it mine” attitude when it comes to other countries and, indeed, other provinces in my own country.

  21. OK, so I’m a little late to this one, but just had to jot down a quick comment: What?!? No way!!!

    You may prefer not to use the ordinal abbreviations, but surely there is no rule compelling one to drop them. At least, there isn’t British or Australian English. Personally, I see their absence as a kind of crude shorthand. So, ‘December 4′ sounds like ‘December four’ not ‘December fourth’. Written in the British/Australian standard order makes it sound even worse, i.e. ‘four December’. Ugh.

    Is this really an American style rule?!

  22. This is true. You are not supposed to WRITE “st, rd,” et cetera. However, you SAY them.

    You WRITE: October 8, 2010 but pronounce it (October eighth two-thousand ten). Same with European dates: 8 October 2010. But pronounce it like “the eighth of October.”

    In school I am required to use MLA (Modern Language Association) format for all my papers. I own the “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers” (7th Edition). They favor using the European style of dating. Thus that is the style with which I date my papers for English class, even though I am American. MLA says that you DO NOT put the “st, rd” et cetera after the number when writing it. It is incorrect!!! This is NOT just for American dates, but for European also.

    In the MLA book, section 3.5.2 it says this is how you write a date:
    1 April 2007
    April 1, 2007”

    Ok? So whether you’re writing the date using American or European style, the only letters you should be writing are for the name of MONTH. 🙂

  23. This exact rule is what robbed me of a One-hundred percent score in my Administration exam.

    At one point during the test, I was to write the next weeks date ‘In full form’ and I did. “May 7th 2011”. Of course, it was wrong, as the ‘th’ was unnecessary; therefore I got dropped a Mark, leaving my near perfect score of one-hundred to ninety-nine.

    I wouldn’t mind much, but the fact that it was near perfect and the Mark I lost was something trivial, I couldn’t help but be frustrated.

  24. I am intrigued by your assertion that the terminals added to numbers in dates are not required because “The only time to use the “th, nd, rd” and “st” with numbers is with ordinal numbers.

    Ordinal numbers are those used to indicate a progression.”.

    Surely numbers within dates are one of the earliest forms of ordinal numbers in that they depict the progression of days through a month?

  25. I thought if you were not stating a year, you use the th or nd. For example, ‘Let’s meet again on May 9th.’ or ‘Let’s meet again on May 9, 2016.’

  26. Yes a big bug bear for me.
    Why are people accepting this ? Is it because they don’t understand Ordinals ?
    It’s plainly silly – It’s Dumb – it’s contradictory.
    How can you say ‘May the 4th be with you’ if it’s May 4 !! Make your mind up.
    Ordinal numbers should still be used. It’s just a slack approach.

    Ordinals – Simply put you could have 8 grapes all numbered 1-8.
    Chances are ( 1 in 8 ? ) grape 8 may be the 1st grape.

    What’s next
    Would you celebrate your child’s Birthday 18 ?
    You finished in place 1 in a race. ?
    It’s time 3 that you visited the restaurant ?

  27. I love how you contradicted yourself by saying ordinal numbers are progressive. Dates and progressive. I googled what an ordinal number is and it says it’s the position of an object and is NOT to do with quantity. So that suits places in a race (like everyone uses) AND for dates too – a progressive “object” that doesn’t relate specifically to quantity. It shouldn’t just be a number like saying “I have 1 balloon”. Not using st, nd, rd and th is wrong and I would never not use them in a date.

  28. Hm. I’ve always written *and said* dates as December 16, not 16th. “My birthday is December 16.” I grew up in Canada. Now I work in an American preschool classroom, and the lead teacher is teaching the kids that with dates we say December *16TH*. That’s why I googled the topic. I prefer efficiency and streamlined writing. Based on all the comments, maybe it’s just me, not based on nationality.

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