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Q. I am editing some reports for my college. I had some good times in the ’60s, was educated in the ’70s, worked in the ’80s and ’90s, but the ’00s confuse me. What do we call them?
A. It is lucky that the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, . . . , ’90s are so easy to talk about; it is unfortunate that the, um, zeros? ’00s? aren’t. In writing, “the ’00s” perhaps looks okay, but it reads horribly (the zeros? the aughts?); so, what does one say? I seem to recall that people writing about the first decade of the last century would say things like “in the first decade” or “at the dawn of the century” or “at the turn of the century” or something like that, phrases which lack economy and sometimes precision. Fewer writers speak of the “teens,” an expression that Chicago doesn’t favor. In any case, one can always use numerals: 2000–2009 or 2010–2019. That said, I wonder if and when something better will be dreamed up and successfully adopted.