May 20, 2011

Mind Your S and Ds: Answering the EDT vs. EST Question

PR Newswire’s Customer Content Specialists review every single press releases submitted for distribution over the wire, and they catch (and fix!) tens of thousands of mistakes each month.   Some of the most common errors they spot relate to time zones, as well as confusion over ‘daylight time’ and ‘standard time.’   Here are some tips for keeping timing details straight. 

When announcing an event, it helps to identify the time zone for any times you have listed. This is especially true if you are targeting a broad audience with your message.

For instance, if your event is taking place in Chicago, but you are hosting a webcast of the event that will be readily available online, you may want to specify the event starts at 2pm Central Time. This way, potential audience members in New York know to tune in at 3pm Eastern Time.

If you do decide to include the time zone, be careful. There are a couple mistakes waiting to happen that you can easily prevent:

Lots of people will see your press release.  Find more tips for perfecting your messages in the Press Release Tips section of our web site.

Lots of people will see your press release. Find more tips for perfecting your messages in the Press Release Tips section of our web site.

Convert between time zones correctly

On occasion you may need to include the time of an event in multiple time zones. For instance, your sentence could read: “Our chairman and chief executive officer will be presenting at the conference on May 17, 2011 at 12:45 p.m. ET / 2:45 p.m. PT.”

Did your eagle eyes notice the mistake in this sentence?  There were two.  First, there is a 3 – not 2 – hour difference between Pacific Time and Eastern Time.  Additionally, when converting Eastern to Pacific Time, the hours count backward not forward.

With these catches, the sentence should have read: “Our chairman and chief executive officer will be presenting at the conference on May 17, 2011 at 12:45 p.m. ET / 9:45 a.m. PT.”

Although these are both easy mistakes to make, they are also easy to prevent.  I always recommend using an online Time Zone Converter or World Clock, especially if you need to verify time zones in different countries.

Daylight Saving vs. Standard Time

When including time zones, many writers in theUnited States prefer to specify whether it is Daylight Saving or Standard Time (abbreviated EDT and EST, respectively, for the Eastern time zone).

Daylight Saving Time, which refers to when we “spring ahead” by one hour, begins in the U.S. in late Winter.  In 2011, for instance, we changed to Daylight Saving Time on March 13.

On November 6, 2011, we will switch to Standard Time when we “fall back” one hour.

When we spring ahead and fall back, it’s important to not just remember to change your clocks, but also keep an eye out for the correct usage of EDT and EST in your news releases.

A month after we changed over to Daylight Saving Time, Diana Dravis, an eagle-eyed editor in our Washington,D.C. bureau, was reading through a press release and noticed the client had used the EST abbreviation instead of EDT. After confirming the change with the client, Diana corrected the timing throughout the news release.

Although this mistake most commonly occurs around the months we make the switch, the rare EST vs. EDT typo does crop up on occasion throughout the year.

One way that this can happen is when someone copies the template of a press release they used earlier in the year.  If you do this, always doublecheck that you’ve updated any timing references — as well as years, months, dates and days of week – with the correct information.  Some individuals also shorten the abbreviation to ET to avoid any confusion.

Although Daylight Saving and Standard Time are common references in the United States, not all countries use it or they recognize it at different times of the year.  If you plan on targeting your announcement to a specific international audience, World Clocks can provide you with the correct local times if you want to include them in your announcement.

When promoting an event, it’s essential to provide accurate timing information to your potential attendees.  And by keeping global considerations in mind, your guests will know when to arrive on time – no matter where they’re coming from.

***

In April 2011, PR Newswire Editors like Diana caught 10,895 errors; year-to-date, our bureaus in DC, Cleveland and Albuquerque have made 44,726 “catches.”  Our April “catch rate” (an internal metric we track which measures the ratio of mistakes caught in press releases) was 667 catches per 1000 releases.

Author Amanda Hicken is a senior editor in PR Newswire’s Cleveland bureau.  In her free time, she pens the Clue Into Cleveland blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr user futureatlas.com

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