American and European date format conflict

One common and very confusing detail in blogs and articles is their date format. There are certain urban myths that this article tries to dissolve around the date formatting of month-day-year vs. day-month-year, or as programmers prefer it, mm/dd/yyyy vs. dd/mm/yyyy.

Before I get into the misconceptions, lets see the problem in one simple example:


Is that 1st day of February or is it the 2nd day of January?

Ok, now that the problem is clear, lets start breaking myths.

First of all, the title of this article is meant to be written that way because that's how many people refer to it, but it's wrong. America is a continent and the source of all the confusion is only in one part of America which is USA. The rest of America follows global standards. Europe, on the other hand, may have a lot of cultural diversion but all Europeans write dates in the form of day-month-year. That does not mean this is a European format. Day-month-year is a format used by many more countries around the world. Wikipedia has a very useful map that illustrates the diversion of date formatting around the world.

In fact, day-month-year and month-day-year are not all there is. There is also year-month-day which is common in China, Japan and a few other countries, and it is widely used by programmers due to practical reasons. So a date like 2013/2/1, which is the Chinese and Japanese format, makes it very clear that the first number is the year, so nobody confuses months with days. If blog and article authors started using that format, everyone would eventually get used to it so it could be adopted globally. But that is far from the modern reality.

We do not imply that you should change the way you write dates. You are very welcome to keep the way you are used to. We want to encourage people to slightly modify their methods so that everyone can easily distinguish the format you are using.

Lets go back to our opening and very confusing example 1/2/2013. How about we write months in a textual form.

So how about write 1/2/2013 as Jan 2, 2013 if you are from USA or 1 Feb 2013 if you are from the rest of the world.

That is our simple suggestion to you. That simple configuration to your blog/article system can help a lot of people not confuse your dates.