How to write the time

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dandelion clock

The barbecue starts at 2 p.m.


Do you sometimes feel a bit confused about how to write the time?

This short post will help 🙂


a.m. is short for ante meridiem – Latin for before midday

p.m. is short for post meridiem – Latin for after midday


a.m. and p.m. are written in lower case with two points or full stops

We use a.m and p.m. only with numbers, and never with o’clock. For example: 9 a.m. not nine a.m.


12 a.m. is always midnight and 12 p.m. is always noon or midday.

However, sometimes writing explicitly 12 midnight or 12 noon, or using the twenty-four-hour clock, can be helpful and can avoid any potential confusion.

On the twenty-four-hour clock 12.00 is noon/midday and 24.00 is midnight.


When writing whole hours or fractions of an hour, use words not numbers.

For example:

two o’clock not 2 o’clock

five o’clock

half past eight

a quarter to nine (U.S. a quarter of nine)

a quarter past three (U.S. a quarter after three)


Use o’clock only with the exact hour e.g. three o’clock is correct, half past three o’clock is incorrect.

If you want to write that an exact hour is in the morning or afternoon, write seven o’clock in the morning, not seven o’clock a.m.


Is this short guide helpful? Do you have any questions?



Angela Boothroyd

Angela Boothroyd

Freelance writer, English language teacher, at Botanical Linguist
Hi, I'm Angela, the creator of the Botanical Linguist site. I'm a freelance writer, linguist, and qualified English language teacher. I specialize in writing online course content, and blog posts and articles about business, education, and the English language. I’m also a writing coach for non-native users of English who want to blog better in English.
Angela Boothroyd
Angela Boothroyd

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