Do you get a lot of emails from friends, family, business associates and other people inviting you to or informing you about events?
You appreciate whenever you’re just able to tap the highlighted blue date and automatically create an event in your calendar.
You despise it when you have to do it manually, because the sender haven’t used the correct format which your phone, tablet or computer recognizes.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try viewing this blogpost on an iPhone and scroll a bit down; that is how you write dates properly!
But what abou when you write to people about dates and events; which feeling would you rather confer with your email? professionalism and I know you’re a busy person? or a feeling of I did this fast, my time matters!
This article is written in english but the examples are in danish; foreigners will find interest in the thoughts on how the data is recognized. The examples have been testen on an Iphone 5 running iOS 8 but should be so general that they will work on any respectable updated system.
The basics, the subject = event name
On an iPhone, no matter what you wrap around a date, the subject will always be used as the event name, so when you write an email about an event you’ll want the subject-line to be something like “Event: dinner at office” or simply “dinner at office”; because the event-part is incredibly implied; it’s in their calendar – it’s pretty much an event.
When you address a single person you’ll want the title to be as descriptive as possible when they look at their calender in 3 months and wonder who they’re meeting with and why. You’ll want to write something like “Dinner with Michael” if your name is Michael, or “Meet with Michael about skiing trip” – you are not creating the event that you are going to look at, you are creating the event that the receiver is going to look at.
When you address multiple people and you are the host you can still write “Presentation on How to write good emails, with Michael Andersen”. If you’re not the particular host but rather just the designated event-scheduler I’m sure you’ll come up with something anyways. The rule is, what would you want in your calendar if you were meeting these people – that’s probably a good hint of what they would want in their calendar when they are meeting you or attending the event.
Secondly it gives a clear intention of the email you’ve sent out, and as you want the subject of an email to be clear and concise you’ll want the name of an event in your calender to be short, clear and concise. An event on an iPhone can have something like 44 characters before the text starts scrolling,
“Presentation on How to write good emails, with Michael Andersen” is 63 characters.
“Talk: Good Emails by Michael A.” is 31 characters long.
Pick which one you’d want to be invited to, hint: the talk is going to be the same.
The fun part, the blue time = event time (Danish)
Apple uses a thing called Apple Data Detectors to cleverly interpret data in sentences such as dates, locations, emails, phone numbers etc. You’ll want to write dates and times in such a way that the Data Detectors can easily understand you.
Tuesday at five past nine is easy to understand for a human, while Tuesday at 9:05 pm is easy to understand for a phone and a human.
Ways of writing time are,
The problem with writing time this way is that the phone has no clue whether it’s 5 in the morning or afternoon, in denmark we use a 24-hour clock, but “5:30 in the afternoon” and “17” is the same when we talk – phones might not understand this which means. Be explicit!
Good ways of writing time are,
Because you explicitly infer whether it’s in the morning or afternoon. But seriously, unless you’re expecting to arrange a meeting later today, the time is useless without a date!
The clever part, the blue dates = event date (Danish)
An iPhone will actually recognize “på tirsdag klokken 11:15” which is danish for “this tuesday at 11:15 am”. An iPhone will actually also recognize “på næste tirsdag klokken 11:15” which is danish for “next tuesday at 11:15 am”, and skip a week when the event is added. Most of the time however, that is a nice way of talking to a human – if you also explicitly know whether the receiver will know whether you’re talking this or actually the next tuesday, do you follow how confusing this is already getting? Bottomline; don’t do this. If the event is more than a week away, be professional add a date.
Ways of writing dates are, (content within square brackets are optional)
på tirsdag [klokken 05 or klokken 17:45]
på næste tirsdag [klokken 05 or klokken 17:45]
But like stated before, if you want to make a serious date and not be incredibly casual, be explicit!
Good ways of writing dates are,
på tirsdag [klokken 14:00]
[[næste] tirsdag] [klokken 14:00[,]] d. 23 februar
note that ‘på’ is removed and that commas are optional after ‘klokken’. They are not optional after tirsdag – if you add a comma here then tirsdag will not be blue. The event will still work however, but we’re after the blues here! – so don’t do it.
Please use words like næste (next) only for syntactic sugar. If you want your messages to be as clear and concise as possible you should refrain entirely from it. And if you think it sounds weird to say on tuesday, the 23rd of february and think it sounds much better to say on next tuesday, the 23rd of february then you should seriously consider just removing the on.
Write tuesday, the 23rd of february it’s precise, to the point and it’s blue.
If a Geenie gave you one wish you’d wish for three more, and then you’d wish for precise, to the point and blue.
NB: below is an Incredibly wrong way of writing dates!
d. 24 februar tirsdag 14:00
it only reads tirsdag 14:00 and schedules the event for this tuesday regardless of the 24th of february.
If you do not add a specific time, the event will be marked as a full-day event. If however you do add a specific time iPhones will as a standard suggest that the event lasts for an hour. But you might want to have an event last for longer or shorter, this is done in the following possible ways,
14:30-15:15[,] d. 24. februar
14:00-15[,] d. 24. februar
14-15:00[,] d. 24. februar
You can write næste tirsdag klokken 14:30-15:15 d. 24. februar but only the parts in the exampls above are highlighted i.e. 14:30-15:15 d. 24. februar. Also, all of the above work with or without the comma between the time and the date, but the comma won’t be highlighted and we’re after the blues so you should just leave it out and go with the recommended way,
14:30-15:15 d. 24. februar
It’s fully highlighted, it’s consistent, and it’s a humanly readable, very-well understood and incredibly precise format.
NB: below are some Incredibly wrong ways of writing dates and times! – they just don’t work as intended.
14-15 d. 24. februar (do NOT write this, or 'kl. 14-15 d. 24. februar')
14-15, d. 24. februar (do NOT write this, or 'kl. 14-15, d. 24. februar')
Date intervals, meeting overnight or hosting a conference?
If you want to be able to specify the beginning and ending date for an event in the same month you can write,
If they’re not in the same month you’re going to have to go with a different format,
24/02 - 25/03
If you do it in this format, you really get to play around. It’s also possible to specify time as well in this format,
14:00 24/02 - 25/03
24/02 14:00 - 25/03
But maybe you want the starting time to be different from the ending time,
12:34 24/02 - 23:45 25/03
12:34 24/02 - 25/03 23:45
24/02 12:34 - 23:45 25/03
24/02 12:34 - 25/03 23:45
When you’re using this format you can seriously choose whichever order you like. Personally I’d recommend 24/03 12:34 – 25/03 23:45 which is date time – date time, because it’s more like the ISO 8610 standard of naming the most important factor first, YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS, and when we do this human + computer kind of thing, we’re really going to want to stick to standards; especially because other cellphone providers than Apple will have thought of recognizing something like this.
Cooler things, the blue locations = event location (Danish)
Another important factor to keep in mind is that depending on the country settings of the receivers system, it will try different guesses; in danish the word vej means street so it’ll be inclined to suggest that “Thisvej 24” is a location, while “Thisstreet 24” isn’t recognized on a danish iPhone.
This can be fixed by helping the system along with more information, e.g. adding a city and zipcode; “Thisstreet 24, 8382 Hinnerup” is recognized as a location.
An iPhone wants to help its user, so if you just specify a location close in the text, to the time specified above, it’ll suggest this as the location of the event.
Descriptions and other things for the event
As far as I know, there’s no way to force an event description or to add more data to an event explicitly. I have sometimes succeeded in having content added to the description of an event when I was testing how an iPhone recognized data in an email, but it was not consistent and often wrongly interpreted. Like how any consecutive digits must be a cellphone number, completely regardless of what text is surrounding it.
Multiple events, multiple emails!
If you want to create multiple events, that do not interfere with each other, you should create multiple emails, one for each. Take a second to Think about it. You want to quickly inform your friends, familiy or work associates about a number of events.
Do you want them to think “hey I have one email”, open it and start pondering about three different dates and whether they are available and finally create three events by manually typing a descriptive event name which they have to spent time inventing for each of the three events?
Do you want them to see three individual emails, which each have a descriptive subject which is the name of the event and each email have a single purpose, which is to inform about this particular event and finally they each have a single blue button namely the highlighted blue date and address which automatically creates a new event, with the proper date and a descriptive name?
Conclusion, the best of both worlds, it doesn’t get much cooler (Danish)
Humans have a knack for understanding very cluttered information surrounded by lots of noise, computers don’t – that’s how we avoid bots on the internet. Computers understand pure data, but that can seem a bit unfriendly to humans.
If you really want to make your emails casual and professional, you might want to be able to say some tuesday from this time to that time and we’ll do this and it’ll be around some place where we’ll meet on this address. But here’s the kicker, if you in the bottom include something like,
iPhone calendar: 14:00 23. februar
Calendar: 14:00 23.-27. februar
Event time: 23/02 14:00 - 27/02 15:35
(of course you should only choose one, depending on how specific you’ll want to be about the event.)
Then the busy person will still love you because the link will highlight, and the receiver will instantly understand, that when you tap this well-prepared blue link, your iPhone will allow you to add this to your calendar.
This is fast for both parties; you, can be precise and concise when you make appointments; your receiver, can quickly add the appointment to a calender; and that, is being professional.