Thursday, 2 February 2012

So, what's the big deal about 9 November?

The same correspondent as I quoted earlier also writes:

And what does 7/8 mean to you? 7th August or 8th July ? This was one where, back in the 1990s and the days of contracts to develop computer or video games, some thought went into whether to "spell out": if the contract was US-driven and delivery of code was required (as it often was) early-October, then there could well be oral agreement for a date of 12th October - so 10/12 was tucked into a Schedule (no "spelling out") and then, if code wasn't on track for delivery, a reasonable argument arose over working to 10th December because that's what the US-driven contract meant by 10/12 ...
I don't recall ever encountering this in a contract, but it is certainly ripe with ambiguity, as I was reminded last year at the première of Richard Blackford's oratorio, Not In Our Time. On 11 September, not 9 November.

The Oxford Style Manual naturally tells us to use day-month-year, and notes that in America the order month-day-year is used. Surely it is much more logical to proceed from the smallest unit to the largest rather than jumping around? Or going from largest to smallest would also make sense, which is what we do with hours, minutes and seconds - an approach promoted by the International Standards Organisation, but not one that would help very much in legal drafting, where the only workable solution seems to me to write out the month in full.

Next: billions.

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