There’s a worldwide disagreement going on right now. This controversy spans the entire world and has the potential to spark the next nuclear war.
I am here to bring sanity to the situation.
Of course, I’m referring to date formatting.
Why must we argue about this topic when we can all step back and discuss it rationally? Let’s try that now.
Dates and times are just a string of unlabeled numbers. We get hints from the placement of the slashes, commas, and colons, but that’s it. Interpreting the meaning of each number is all implied; that is to say, it’s non-explicit and must be interpreted.
Since the numbers are unlabeled and could be from anywhere in the world, we cannot rely on our customs, so instead we need a logical standard. Since we read from left to right, the information should be given in that order. “The first of the month” has no meaning until you know the month. Similarly, “January” has no real meaning until you know the year. If someone uses the order DD-MM-YYYY, there is inefficiency for the reader as they will have to backtrack as they read, as each additional segment of the date modifies the meaning of the previous segment. For example, if I say “the first of January […]” you have to mentally put that on hold while you wait for the year. Then, I say “1944”, and finally meaning is given to the previous part of the sentence.
Therefore, to adhere to a logical standard that takes efficiency and uniformity into account, the only date format that makes any sense is this:
The four digits in the beginning are clearly the year, as that is the only part of the date that can have four digits. This tips off the reader that it is a date, and if the year is first, they would instinctively know that the next block will be months, and then the days. This makes sense as it goes in succession from most general to most specific, giving the reader ordered information that builds upon the previous information.
What about the time?
The time poses a new problem, which I will have a fix for below. There is no question, anywhere in the world, which block in the written time refers to hours, and which to minutes, but the 12-hour or 24-hour clock does cause a lot of friction. Most people, in my opinion, don’t easily think in a 24-hour clock, but it’s often used because it sorts easily on computers and spreadsheets. We need to get away from that.
The fix is simply to do two things:
- Put the hour designation (am/pm) before the hour, not after (“A” comes before “P” alphabetically), and
- Change the “12” hour to “00”.
The time can be written like any of these examples:
- AM 08:49
- PM 08:49
Please note that the term “hour designation” was coined by me. I want full credit for that one as I have no other claim to fame and I need to make my mark on this world somehow. This is it.
To my knowledge, there is no other recognizable term for this chunk of the datetime. People clumsily refer to it as “the am pm part”, which is dumb. A real term is required, and it shall be called the “hour designation”.
Why would anyone want to put the hour designation after the minutes or seconds? How senseless. When you say “nine”, I don’t have the patience to sit around waiting for you to tell me the minutes, only to then backtrack and give me the specifics on what the “nine” was all about. I’m like, “Oh, PM, so you meant nighttime.” Obviously, you should say that first.
It refers to which half of the day is going to be given (pre-noon, post-noon), so to be in order, it should look just like this (remember “HD” is “hour designation”):
YYYY-MM-DD HD HH:MM:SS
And there you have the full and proper formatting for all dates and times. Simple, logical, and sortable on a computer.
Please note that there is no benefit, at least that I am aware of, to using forward slashes (“/”) or hyphens (“-“) for reading purposes, but for the sake of computers that might interpret forward slashes as the end of a directory, dashes are probably better. There wouldn’t be any confusion in the meaning, either way.