Should Independence Day Be Written as July 4th or July 4?

I hope you all have a Happy Independence Day and that you aren’t confused about whether you should write July 4th or July 4.

The Fourth of July: July 4th or July 4?

Which one looks correct to you?

Chances are, most people won’t pick the one style manuals do.

In my real job, I use Associated Press style a great deal. In a handful of cases, my company has a few rules that supersede AP Style, but those are definite exceptions. When it comes to dates, we follow AP’s guidance.

That’s where things might get a bit unpleasant: AP Style, and the Chicago Style Manual, among others, suggest the appropriate way to deal with dates is to use cardinal numbers with the understanding that when read aloud, they’ll likely be read as ordinal numbers.

“Hold on,” you say. “I don’t recall what cardinal and ordinal numbers are, exactly.”

Cardinal numbers are used to denote quantity and are generally expressed as numerals like 4, 5, and 6.

Ordinal numbers are used to express position or priority and take forms like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

When it comes to AP Style, the numbers one through nine are spelled out, while the numbers 10 and greater are expressed as numerals. But this doesn’t apply to dates: It’s July 1, not July First or July 1st, even though when reading aloud, we see July 1 and read it as “July 1st.”

So don’t get bent out of shape if you see various sources typing out the Fourth of July as “July 4.” They’re correctly following the proper style guide, even if it doesn’t look the way your eyes tell you it should.

What I hope you’ll do instead of getting upset about seeing “July 4” is to enjoy a cookout with friends, thank a service member for their work in securing and protecting our freedoms and enjoy a nice fireworks show somewhere.

Happy Independence Day!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.