Beyond PR

Mar 13, 2012

Grammar Hammer: Daylight Saving Time Travel

Via this column, we’ll explore one grammar rule each week. If you have a grammar question you’d like me to address, please drop me a line at and I’ll do my best to answer it.

The term “spring forward” is often met with a groan, an eye roll or a deep sigh, because unless you’re an overnight worker or an insomniac, you know those two words signify the hour of sleep you lose on the second Sunday in March every year, due to daylight saving time.

But in an effort to stay positive, let’s consider a mind-blowing upside to this yearly ritual: technically, if you observe daylight saving time, you time travel. Yes! A feat that no human ever thought they could do. And all this time, we’ve been living out H.G. Wells’ dream twice a year.

Plus, this time travel brings us one hour closer to the first day of spring (March 20!). So with this newfound respect for daylight saving as a physics-defying date that ushers us into warmer weather, let’s discuss how to reference time zones appropriately in writing.


First things first: It’s “daylight saving time,” not “daylight savings time” — we’re saving daylight, we’re not savings daylight.

There are four time zones in the continental U.S.: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Arizona, Hawaii and U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) do not recognize daylight saving time.

According to AP Stylebook, when linking the term “daylight saving time” with the name of a specific time zone, use the word “daylight” only, not “daylight saving.”

  • Eastern Daylight Time (correct)
  • Mountain Daylight Time (correct)
  • Pacific Daylight Saving Time (wrong)

Lowercase “daylight saving time” or “daylight time” whenever it stands alone. (When referring to a specific time zone, like the three examples above, the term is capitalized because it’s a proper noun. Check out Grammar Hammer: Rules of Capitalization for more details on when to capitalize.)

According to federal law, daylight time begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November (this year, it will end on Nov. 4).

During the rest of the year, we’re in standard time.

  • Eastern Standard Time
  • Mountain Standard Time

Abbreviations for time zones on the first mention are acceptable. Include the zone abbreviation after the time only if it’s relevant, like if the story involves travel, or references TV or radio programs.

  • Wake me up at 1:59 a.m. EST so I can witness the miracle!

Now that we’ve switched to daylight time, we include “EDT” after the time instead.

  • The first showing of “Bill and Ted 3” will be on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. EDT.

See you in the future, fellow time travelers!

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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