Writing the Time: How to Write Time Correctly (Examples)

By Carly Forsaith, updated on June 9, 2023

If you want to learn how to write time correctly, you've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you know to use time correctly in your writing.

The time can be written in letters or numerals and follows various conventions. To learn more, read on.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

How to Write the Time in Numerals

Before you can learn how to write the time in your texts correctly, you need to know about the different ways of measuring time. There are two commonly used ones: the 12-hour and 24-hour formats. Let's review each one by one.

12-Hour System

The 12-hour system uses the numbers 1 to 12 to measure time and the abbreviations' am' and 'pm' to specify whether the time mentioned is in the morning or the afternoon. The hours from 1 to 12 before noon count as the morning, and the hours between 1 and 12 after noon count as... well, afternoon.

There are a few different ways to write the time using the 12-hour system. What they all have in common is that you begin by stating the number. You can then follow the number with the abbreviation 'am' or 'pm;' the phrase 'in the morning,' 'in the afternoon,' or 'at night,' or the word' o'clock.'

Here are some examples:

Let's have lunch at 11am.

I need you in the office by 2 in the afternoon.

In January it gets dark at 3pm.

In informal writing, it's okay to use just the number to mention the time ("Let's meet at 5.") as long as it's safe to assume the person will know whether you mean morning, afternoon, evening, or night.

  • It's worth noting there are several different ways to write the abbreviations' am' and 'pm.' Some like to capitalize them; others keep them lowercase.
  • Some use periods between the letters while others don't, and some leave a space after the number while others don't.

Here are some representations of the different ways this can look using the example time of 8 in the morning:

  • 8am
  • 8 am
  • 8a.m.
  • 8 a.m.
  • 8AM
  • 8 AM
  • 8A.M.
  • 8 A.M.

Some spellcheckers will even have you use a period after the first letter but not the second one. All these variations are correct, and which one you should use depends on the style guide you follow.

The main thing is to stay consistent.

24-Hour system

The 24-hour system uses—you guessed it—24 numbers to measure the time. The numbers 1 to 12 refer to the morning hours, while numbers 13 to 24 refer to the afternoon and evening hours. Due to the system's intricacy, you don't need to use phrases such as 'in the morning,' nor must you use 'am' or 'pm.'

They're expected to land at 13:45. 

The screening begins at 20:00 but there'll be some trailers before that.

I heard the meeting started at 8:00.

Notice I've used a colon between the hours and the minutes in the examples above. You can also use a period.

Top Tip! The military system also uses the 24-hour system but without the colon/period, followed by the word "hours." For example: Take off at 300 hours.

How to Write the Time in Letters

There are times you might want to write the time in letters. Like when? Well, like with all things, it's primarily up to you. Just make sure to remain consistent, whatever you choose to do.

Nonetheless, here are some guidelines you might decide to follow:

  • Write the time in letters only when it won't burden the page. For instance, '7:25' is better than 'twenty-five past seven.' 'Eight' and '8:00' are equivalent.
  • Never write 24-hour format time in letters.
  • Use the words' noon' and 'midnight' over the numerals' 12 pm,' '12am,' '12:00,' or '24:00.' It's just more straightforward.
  • With o'clock, you can use either numerals or words.
  • When the time you're writing isn't on the hour, remember to use words such as 'past,' 'after,' 'til,' and 'to.'

Here are some examples to illustrate some of these guidelines:

My son's so lazy; he never gets up before noon.

What do you think of meeting at five o'clock for cocktails?

It's already half past one!

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on how to write time correctly. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • The time can be written in a 12-hour or 24-hour format.
  • When writing the time in numerals, use words like 'am,' 'pm,' and the phrases 'in the morning,' 'in the afternoon,' or 'at night.' 
  • 'O'clock' can be used with numerals or letters.
  • You can choose to write the time in numerals or letters; just stay consistent.

If you found this article helpful, check out our Grammar Book. It's an online database of articles that break down complex grammar topics into easy-to-understand guides. You'll love it!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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