I want to typeset time so it looks beautiful. Here's my first attempt:

\usepackage[top=1cm, bottom=1cm, left=1cm, right=1cm]{geometry}


        18\kern 0.2em \textsuperscript{\small{\underline{00}}}


Is there a better or more correct way to do it? It looks decent but perhaps not perfect.

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    I guess this is going to come down to, how for define "perfect"? Nov 11, 2012 at 0:08
  • Notes from my standard preamble: Use the parskip package instead of manual tweaks as changing \parindent and \parskip is considered as one of the deadly sins, as per Too much whitespace before enumerate Nov 11, 2012 at 0:11
  • @PeterGrill Thanks for the tip. That was just from an example I dug up but good to know. :-) PS do you have a link to your standard preamble? PPS Perfect just means "best practice", if there is such a thing. Nov 11, 2012 at 0:16
  • Ok, but the question seemed as to be asking about how particular text looked in the output, not a "best practices" type -- you might want to consider clarifying it. My preamble would not be appropriate for public posting as it is highly customized for my use case. I just keep notes in there so I know whey I did what I did -- easier than searching this site. Contrary to my rep, I am not that much of an expert on these kind of things. And it probably still has a lot of beginner errors from my more naive days. In fact, I just saw a really bad use a few week ago which I never noticed before. Nov 11, 2012 at 0:22
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    For typesetting time(s) there is often a cultural and/or linguistic rule (and maybe even an ISO). 18.00/18:00/18⁰⁰/… Is this for running text? For (time) tables? Some fancy invitation card? Nov 11, 2012 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


The ISO 8601 standardizes the representation of dates and times, and these standard representations are often used to construct timestamp values. With respect to the time, the ISO 8601 uses the 24-hour notation with : (colon) separators as hh:mm:ss or hh:mm or hh.

Therefore, the adhesion to hh:mm could be considered a "best practice".

In LaTeX, package datetime use this format as the default in \currenttime. But with \settimeformat you can change the style xxivtime to ampmtime to display the current time in the 12-hour format followed by ante meridiam/post meridiam abbreviation (6:00pm).

This is because on the contrary to the common format on digital clocks and computers, humans often like the 12-hour format with am/pm abbreviations because is simpler and unmistakable, so this, with or without ISO, is also a good practice. As pointed in the comments, this depends also of the country uses. This is explained with more detail this page of Wikipedia (but actually the list of countries where the 12-hour format is common seems incomplete).

Another options, for example in a invitation card, is to display the time as text (for current time, set format style to oclok)

For a 12-hour format, instead of ante meridiem abbreviation in lowercase (am) you may prefer "A.M." in small caps. In this case you can use hh:mm\AM or hh:mm\PM with the package abbrevs (of course, you can make also a little macro, but these correctly handles following periods).

I do not recommend the period as separator (18.00 format) even if it usual in your country, as the time could be confused with a number, even if decimals are marked with a semicolon. (for change it in \currenttime use \renewcommand{\timeseparator}{.}

Finally, at least for me, 18ºº look unusual and I think that it could be confusing, mainly if there are near symbols of Celsius degree, superscripts with numbers (reference to footnotes, chemical compounds, equations, etc.) or when is not clarified by the context that 18ºº is the time. If the point is to make something original/elegant with the time, please consider use a font with old style numbers.

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    When talking about human beings preferring the am/pm notation you were talking about English speaking human beings, right? Because nobody uses it in, say, Germany, for example. OTOH the notation with the superscripted minutes looks very familiar to me. Otherwise I agree.
    – cgnieder
    Nov 11, 2012 at 9:26
  • @cgnieder, well, I did not say that is what all humans prefer. I do not know them all :-). Moreover, I realise that 24-hour format is widespread (also in my country) and fot this I upvoted the Qrrbrbirlbel comment. But the use of am/pm between has been habitual among english, spanish and portuguese, so it is a least a frequent habit in the whole world. And this habit may cause confusion when the writer is careless (8:00 hours are truly 8:00am or may be 20:00?).
    – Fran
    Nov 11, 2012 at 12:30
  • On the other hand on can always be contextual: “7:00 in the evening” or “8:15 in the morning”. “the party starts at 9 o'clock”. I guess as always it depends on the actual use case and the type of document. Don't get me wrong: I agree with your answer. I just wanted to point out that there are languages that don't have the am/pm notation.
    – cgnieder
    Nov 11, 2012 at 12:36
  • @cgnieder, I agree also with your comments. In fact I said "when is not clarified by the context". About "human beings", I only tried to explain that 24-h become now the standard as the logic consequence of digital clocks and computers, but some people still think about time in analogic clocks, writing "9:00 am" (as well as speaking/writing “9:00 in the morning)”, but I firmly believe that people speaking in 24-h still belong to the human species! :-). BTW, “the party starts at 9 o'clock” is still confusing. I had parties starting at 9:00 in the morning...
    – Fran
    Nov 11, 2012 at 19:16

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