A time for everything

A time for everything

I have a guest from Finland visiting at the moment who has just finished a medical student exchange at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.

Last night over dinner we were talking about the different ways people write the time. She was asking what the standard is in South Africa because she had seen different notations in the hospital.

I too have seen time written in different ways, so maybe this was a good opportunity to talk about it. For example, how should you be writing the time in your documents? There are two kinds of clocks, as you know. The 12-hour clock and the 24-hour clock.

The 12-hour clock uses the “am” and “pm” markers to indicated which half of the day you are in. AM stands for ante meridiem; “meridiem” means “midday” and “ante” means “before” so am is “before midday”. The “p” in pm is for post meaning “after”, so pm is “after midday”. The above is more for your general knowledge than anything else. Today, the prefered time convention is to use the 24-hour clock. It ensures that there is no confusion between am and pm because you count the hours off as they pass, starting from zero.

You may see the 24-hour clock written in two ways: 14h25 or 14:25. The second version is the most up-to-date and complies with ISO standards. The “h” in the older format stands for “hours” or “hundred hours” (depending on who you are talking to), but it is not necessary to use this annotation anymore. A colon (:) is fine. Remember that if it is a single digit number, you should put a zero before the number, so if you have a meeting at seven o’clock in the morning, you will write 07:00.

Modern time writing conventions no longer use a combination of letters and numbers. The 24-hour clock is the preferred international clock, and a colon is used to separate the hours from the minutes. hh:mm ✓ Have a happy week and remember to keep it constructive! Elaine

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