Although not the biggest problem in the world today, the wide variety of ways of writing dates from country to country -- and even in different establishments in the U.S. -- has bugged me for some time.
Generally, most civilians in the U. S. write dates in the illogical "month-day-year" sequence. For example, 8-9-81 means August 9, 1981. (And don't forget the comma; one schoolteacher TV-viewer recently wrote an indignant letter, which ABC aired, because 20/20 had omitted the comma for aesthetic reasons.) The military -- and many civilians now -- use a logical ascending order with the month abbreviated or spelled cut: 9 Aug 1981. Europeans tend to agree with the military, except that they usually don't spell cut the month; 9-8-81 means 9 August 1981 over there.
To dispel all this confusion, the International Standards Organization (ISO), headquartered in Geneva, has published an International Standard recommending a logical descending order. This appeals to me because it puts the cost significant portion first, doesn't require a comma, and is instantly clear no matter what you have used in the past. The ISO date format looks like this: 1980-08-09. It is already in use in many computer applications; hopefully it will spread. I'm doing my bit.
The ISO has published over 3000 such standards, in many fields. You can get further information by writing them at: Case postale 56, 1211 Genève 20, Switzerland.
[Ed. note: Your mailing label has a date above the name which indicates the year and month your subscription expires, in the format of 8208, or August 1982. A detailed explanation will appear in a future issue. -George 1981]