Numbers: Calendar years in text

January 4, 2007: Issue 171

As we start 2007, let’s talk about how we treat calendar years in text.

Set the year off with commas in a complete date (month, day, year):
She was born May 18, 1972, in Chicago.

Don’t use commas, though, when you list only month and year:
In December 2003 he got the diagnosis.

Use an apostrophe when you drop the first two digits:
A hurricane in ’03 put the home to the test.

To denote a decade, add an s—but no apostrophe:
Mirrors evoke the Hollywood glamour of the 1920s.

And when you drop the first two digits on a decade, remember that the apostrophe still belongs at the beginning:
The style gained popularity in the ’90s.

Computer tip: Some programs will try to make that apostrophe into an opening single quote. In InDesign and Microsoft Word, you can force the apostrophe with option-shift-].

Winner: The winner of our celebrity look-alike contest is Eric Liskey, for his resemblance to Tom Selleck. We’ve ordered a Detroit Tigers cap for you, Eric. Prizes also go to Heather Knowles, who nominated Eric, and to Diane Dubansky Haase and Lauren Luftman, who were very good sports about the whole thing. (Click here to see the entries.)

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