Q. In the sentence “It happened on the twenty-fourth of July,” should the date be spelled out or a numeral? CMOS 9.31 only addresses the treatment of ordinals when the month is not mentioned.
A. We get this question a lot. Let’s start with the conventional formats—July 24, 2020 (typical US style); 24 July 2020 (typical style outside the US); 2020-07-24 (ISO style). Each of these uses a cardinal rather than an ordinal numeral for the day, whether the year is expressed or not (i.e., July 24 or 24 July, not July 24th or 24th July). Outside of these conventional formats, our recommendation would be to spell out ordinals for the day of the week even when the month is mentioned: the twenty-fourth of July; the twenty-fourth (but the Fourth of July or the Fourth for the US holiday; see CMOS 8.89). But keep in mind that this rule applies primarily to formal, long-form prose—so it’s possibly a little too formal for many contexts; if you prefer numerals, or if you need to use them to save space, you have our blessing (the 24th of July, or the 24th). And if you follow Chicago’s alternative system of spelling out only one through nine, an all-numeral approach for days will facilitate consistency (e.g., we’ll be offering tours on the 1st, 2nd, and 24th of July).