punctuation for time

Discussion in 'English Only' started by monkeyaug, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. monkeyaug Banned

    korean and english
    I wonder if I can use full stop instead of colon when to say time. For example,

    I will arrive there at 14.25.( instead of at 14:25) Is it right?
  2. idialegre Senior Member

    Hamburg, Germany
    USA English
    I have never seen a period (or full stop) used in place of a colon.
    In addition, if you write, say, 11.10 instead of 11:10, in some places people might even interpret it to mean either November 10th or October 11th.
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    In English, only a colon. Or, if you use a 24-hour clock, no punctuation at all: just "1110."

    There are almost surely languages where the practice is different. People who have those as their first languages may carry over their habits into English. As posted above, this can cause confusion - much as different symbols for the decimal indicator and the thousands separator often do.
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I don't think it's quite as clear-cut as the previous posters imply.

    Here's what The Times style guide says on the subject (my red highlighting):
    I think I use a colon more often than a full-stop, but I certainly don't rule out using the latter:).
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You may find some examples of . used in time formatting, but it is unusual.
    Edit: I was sure I'd seen a guide that recommended . - but I couldn't find it :)
    The normal form is to use a colon - that's the ISO standard too.

    I wouldn't use nothing.

    (International Standards Organisation)
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I used to use no punctuation back in the days when I was working with the military: for a sequence of events, I would write, for example
    0900 coffee
    0930 start meeting.

    I don't use it any more, though, now I'm no longer writing in military contexts:).
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I use a dot myself all the time for the 12-hour clock, and that was what I was taught to write as a child: 2.25pm. The 24-hour clock is a more new-fangled thing for me, at we were taught in school not to put in any punctuation 1425, but I have seen 14.25 (as well as 14:25) before and might use this form too.
  8. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    It looks like the bottom line on this is that everyone in the English-speaking world would recognize 11:10 as a time, whereas 11.10 might be interpreted as something else. Although some people in English-speaking countries are comfortable with 11.10 for ten minutes after eleven a.m., not all are. Therefore, it would be better to use 11:10.

    1110 is the standard in the US armed forces and in some other contexts. However, note that in the U.S., 24-hour time is not universally understood. As difficult as it might be for people in other countries to believe, there are Americans who would convert 1425 to 4:25 p.m. Therefore, it is important not to use 24-hour time if you want to be understood by American civilians.

    Use of punctuation with 24-hour time (14:25 or 14.25) is very unusual in the U.S. I would venture to say that it is only done by foreigners or found in foreign publications.
  9. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Computer 24-hour time uses the punctuation: "2011-01-01 23:22.04023".

    I can't think of a case where I would use a period rather than a colon in 24-hour time.
  10. I'm just the opposite. I always use a full stop and never a colon.

  11. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Nothing is the norm for train and bus timetables in the UK as well as for the military, as noted by Loob and Fabulist. I don't think it matters much:

    I'll meet you at 1425.
    I'll meet you at 14:25.
    I'll meet you at 14.25.

    Who is going to think that's anything other than the time?

    (I accept that some Americans might get the time wrong, but that should be the only confusion)
  12. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    In its printed timetables, the U.S. national passenger train operation, AMTRAK, uses no punctuation between the hour and the minutes but does separate them with a space. It follows the minutes immediately with a capital A or P to indicate which half of the day the time refers to. It does this for both domestic and international trains: 2 25P

    On their Web sites, several U.S. domestic airlines separate the hour and the minutes with a colon, and follow the minutes by a small-capital AM or PM: 2:25 PM

    On its Web site, Greyhound, a national bus company in the U.S., uses a leading zero with the hour, separates the hour and minutes with a colon, and follows the minutes with a space and an all-capital AM or PM: 02:25 PM

    None of them use a period to separate the hours from the minutes, does not separate the hours from the minutes in some way, or uses 24-hour time in material for the general public.
  13. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Here's one American who would interpret the second as 2:25 p.m. but wouldn't know what to think about the others, unless the first were followed by "hours"; otherwise, it might be a street address. The third looks like a figure on a price tag.
  14. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Presumably that's because it was contextless. If I could just quote a page about parking: would 7.30-17.00 or between 10.00 and 17.00 below be ambiguous? This represents to me the typical context of encountering times in this format.

    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Within that context it would be understandable to me but very strange. My first impression when seeing "between 10.00 and 17.00" is "between $10.00 and $17.00".
  16. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    The Chicago Manual of Style, by the University of Chicago Press, widely used by other academic or university presses, specifies use of a colon to separate hours from minutes for 12-hour time. In parentheses, it says flatly, "In Britain a period rather than a colon is used between hour and minutes—2.30." For 24-hour time, only four digits with no separator between hours and minutes is specified. I am referring to the 13th edition (1982).

    The United States Government Printing Office Style Manual specifies the colon as the separator for hours and minutes with no separator for the 24-hour system that it describes as "astronomical and military time." Colons are also specified as separators between hours and minutes and minutes and seconds for a "stopwatch reading." The only use of a period is as a decimal point for decimal hours: 4 hours, 30 minutes = 4.5 hours. There is no supposition about British practice.

    Three other style manuals used in the U.S., those of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press (AP), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Modern Language Association (MLA), are available on-line only for purchase of the paper edition or through an annual paid subscription.

    An old (1989) copy of The New York Public Library Desk Reference does not have directions about how to express time, but when hours and minutes are given they are separated by a colon. An example of 24-hour time uses four digits with no separator.

    I am still looking for any usage of a period as a separator between hours and minutes in the United States.
  17. lizmag Member

    As a British English speaker I'd always use a full stop and not a colon. As for use of the 24-hour clock, those on mainland Europe would understand although for some British English speakers it might sound unusual.
  18. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Coming back to this and in light of Fabulist's post mentioning the emphatic statement in the style guide, I think there may be a difference in the UK depending on whether it is the 12-hour clock or 24-hour clock that is the reference.

    I would expect 2.30 am, 2.30 pm, not 2:30 am, 2:30 pm.
    For the 24-hour clock I would expect 0230, 1430 in bus and train timetables but I would find it unremarkable if someone sent me a note that used 02:30 or 14:30.

    I was initially surprised by the example that natkretep found, but on looking at it I discovered that I am not actually surprised, I just wouldn't write a 24-hour time that way.
  19. Karen123456 Senior Member

    Malaysia English
    After reading all the replies, it seems that the Americans would use a colon for time, and the British would use a full stop.
  20. Producer New Member

    I realise that I am a bit late coming to this debate but as a professional I'd like to add my two pence (or two cents) worth. My background is television production - especially the bits between programmes. I've also been a journalist.

    The fact is the full stop and the colon are both correct. You will even find the absurd situation where for example a tv channel website will list programme times with a colon while on air its promos use a full stop.

    I was recently corrected by a senior linguist for using a full stop for times on a website. I had to point to the poor chap that tv has been using them for years instead of colons.

    If all around you are using one in preference to the other then go with the flow - that's all I can say. So if you are in America and most of the people in your business or area use a colon then do the same.
  21. Welcome, Producer.

    Thanks for a useful contribution.

  22. Karen123456 Senior Member

    Malaysia English
    <Merged with earlier thread. Nat>

    Is 2:00pm American English and 2.00pm British English? (The former has a colon after 2, while the latter has a period after 2.)

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 1, 2015
  23. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Yes, more or less, though the colon is also seen here sometimes.

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