Why can't we have ONE method for writing dates!

No it doesn’t usually. It did recently, but last year it was almost all in October, and this year will be partly in September. It wheels all the way around the solar year: 33 lunar years fit into 32 solar years. Just remember for every 100 Gregorian years, there are 103 corresponding Islamic years, because the “year” is shorter, lunar months average 29½ days, 12 of them make only 354 days.

It’s already happened. See ISO 9601 (YYYY-MM-DD).

Correction, ISO 8601.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_date_format

I do that when taking notes, although it’s quicker to scribble it down using roman numerals: 21 vii 06.

Best way to avoid all ambiguity when there is a chance someone might interpret a date differently than you? Spell out the month, of course. Some will write “22 July” and others “July 22” (or “July 22nd”) but it’s always clear. And then tack on a four-digit year to boot.

(as I see Ferret Herder has suggested, you can even abbreviate the month to 3 letters. Only 1 extra character that way)

That assumes that everyone can read and understand English.

Am I being wooshed?

Almost half the world doesn’t use the Gregorian Calendar for either religious or traditional (which is usually the same thing) reasons, including almost all of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa (although some of these areas use multiple calendars, including Gregorian). Astronomic years are years in which the year is the same length as the passage of the Earth around the sun – the Gregorian calendar is an example (give or take a little correction now and again). The Japanese one makes my point, and the last two were reference to the Chinese “year of <some animal>” and an (I thought) obvious joke.

No. What I’m trying to say is, although other calendar systems do exist, everyone on the world knows about the Gregorian calendar and are familiar with it. Unless you know of any groups of people who don’t use it at all, and don’t want to use it, which seems to be what you were saying?

The year in Cambodia is 2550. In Japan the year 2006 is Heisei 18

And technically, in Canada it’s 53 Elizabeth II, but as for as I know that only gets used in formal Parliamentary legal affairs. No-one ever uses it in civil affairs.

Left to my own numerical devices, I write 2006-07-22. I avoid any system with a two-digit year, and in Canada we encounter documents using both the mm/dd/yyyy and dd/mm/yyyy conventions, so for clarity I find that it’s best to avoid them as well.

Just to throw another format ito the mix, I remember from the days when I was reading a lot of Russian books and papers, dates like this: 22/VII/06. As you can see, the day was always first, the months were indicated with a Roman numeral, and the year always came last. Made a lot of sense to me, but as I said, this method was used in Russian, and not in English.

The problem with having so-called ISO standards is that few people seem to understand and use them. So, unless the date format is specifically stated on the form I’m filling out, or if I’m drafting my own document, I keep things clear to any reader of English: I write out the name of the month and use the full four-digit year. On occasions when a document I’ve drafted has needed to be translated, I let the translator deal with the date format desired by the other language.

So, left to my own devices, I’ll use either 22 July, 2006 or July 22, 2006. Hey, I’m Canadian; I have to know both American and British styles.

I agree few people actually use them, but there’s nothing to “understand”. YYYY-MM-DD is perfectly unambiguous, because it’s obvious to anyone that the 4-digit number is the year, and nobody mistakes it for YYYY-DD-MM because nobody uses that format.

The clearest format is to use two digits for the day, the three-letter-string for month, and a four-digit year. It isn’t the most efficient format for storage, but there is no ambiguity about it. Althought there will be Year 10000 compliance issues.

My favourite weird format for dates used in computing is the SAS Date: number of days since 1st January 1960. Weird, but convenient for computing purposes.

And that would be one rationale for two formats for dates: one for text/display and another for computing.

When I was a little kid, the first thing we did in our books at school each morning was write out the date in full, in pencil at the top of the page:
Monday, 1st October, 1976

Then, as I grew up, I started using DD/MM/YY, and that was okay, because Y2K was still below the horizon, and we didn’t have to deal much with those pesky Americans, what with no internet or anything. In recent years, I’ve reverted to a simplified version of what I was taught when I was six: I’d write today as 23 July 2006, or 23 JUL 2006. Modern computing power means we can waste electrons on such frippery as long-format dates (and as said earlier, if a form requires a short one, it’ll usually guide you throgh it). To the person who asked “what about the people who can’t speak English?”, well umm… so we write the date at the top of a long letter in English, in a way they can understand. Then what?

Throw in good ol’ 24 hour time, and there should be no more problems.

The problem is that they may not be familiar with the English names for months. They may not be familiar with the Latin alphabet.

You buy a widget, its expiration date is “21 Июль 2006”. Is it still good?

I think you missed the point. The point was that if the date is on top of a long letter or form in English, and the recipients don’t read English, they’re fucked no matter how you write the date.

A date can be useful information in many situations, even if you don’t understand the language used in the label or document. Why be parochial about it?

Don’t ask me, I’m not the one who said it in the first place. I was just clarifying.

I concede there would be times where a date alone might be useful (as per the widget example), but that would have to be weighed up against the number of times Americans and Commonwealth residents can’t understand each other because of conflicting date formats, which is more what this thread is about.

If a date in your native language on the side of your can of beans is useful, then what about the price, or the word “beans” or any other thing? Most all imported products I use have at least a sticker on them in English with the name, the ingredients, the expiry date, the country of origin, and the import company name."

It all reminds me of the trouble they had in African countries that used pictures of the contents on the label, because of the high illiteracy rate. All well and good, until they started importing baby food… You can’t make it foolproof for everybody, but use of a month name written in longhand is probably going to assist more people than it inconveniences.

There’s also the point that if you can’t read the Latin characters, then you KNOW you don’t know, but confusion arising from something like 04/07/06 might not be apparent until after it’s caused some sort of bad situation.