Is it Noon, or just 12:00PM?

January 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

  How do you indicate the time for "Noon" and "Midnight"? This interesting question – and the ensuing answers – appeared on a recent forum to which I belong. I have wondered for years whether to note "12:00 P.M." or "12:00Noon". Since success language is as much about our writing skills as it is about our speaking skills and how we present ourselves, I think the researched responses to the question are worthy of noting here.
12:00 Noon – Correct Way to Say

Garner's Modern American Usage Guide states that neither am nor pm is correct. Use Noon (for middle of day) and Midnight (for end of the day).

Wikipedia has a lengthy article, providing both sides of the story.

The word "meridies" means noon or midday. It is, strictly speaking, illogical to refer to noon as either "12 a.m." (12 ante meridiem, 12 hours before noon) or as "12 p.m." (12 post meridiem, 12 hours after noon). On the other hand, midnight could logically be called either "12 p.m." (12 post meridiem, 12 hours after the previous noon) or "12 a.m." (12 ante meridiem, 12 hours before the following noon); "x a.m." no longer literally means "x hours before noon", but "x hours into the day but before noon" or "x th hour before noon".

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, states: To avoid confusion, the correct designation for twelve o'clock is 12 noon or 12 midnight. Alternatively, the twenty-four-hour-clock system may be used. The abbreviation a.m. stands for ante-meridiem (before the Sun has crossed the line) and p.m. for post-meridiem (after the Sun has crossed the line). At 12 noon the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and directly over the meridian. It is therefore neither "ante-" nor "post-".

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000): "Strictly speaking, 12 a.m. denotes midnight, and 12 p.m. denotes noon, but there is sufficient confusion over these uses to make it advisable to use 12 noon and 12 midnight where clarity is required."

The use of "12:00 a.m." for midnight and "12:00 p.m." for noon, however, is contrary to the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual which recommends the opposite: "12 p.m." for midnight and "12 a.m." (formerly "12 m.") for noon.

The NIST style guide recommends that it is clearest if one refers to "noon" or "12:00 noon" and "midnight" or "12:00 midnight" (rather than to "12:00 p.m." and "12:00 a.m.", respectively). Other style guides suggest "12:00 n" for noon and "12:00 m" for midnight, but that conflicts with the older tradition of using "12:00 m" for noon (Latin meridies), and "12:00 mn" for midnight (Latin media nox).

The Canadian Press Stylebook (11th Edition, 1999, page 288) says, "write noon or midnight, not 12 noon or 12 midnight." Phrases such as "12 a.m." and "12 p.m." are not mentioned at all.
How is this for everything you (might) want to know about "Noon"? I think I'll take a lunch break!

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