Military Time: Why Aren't You Using It? | ITS
 

Why Aren’t You Using Military Time?

By Bryan Black

Military Time

Military time, or a 24-hour clock can take some getting used to, but is no harder to learn that a 12-hour clock. Once practiced, just like anything, it becomes second nature and the mental conversion in your head becomes easier.

While we’re discussing military time and getting into its intricacies, I’d also like to make the case today for converting your watch, smartphone and any other device capable, over to military time. Not only will it save you a lot of headaches when you set your phone alarm when half asleep, but the sooner the rest of society converts over, the sooner we can all stop screwing up time.

What I mean by that is that there can be a lot of confusion with time. Not only do you potentially have to often contend with different time zones, but there’s that pesky AM/PM business that can often be left off in conversation or emails. It can certainly mean a big difference when you’re talking about calling someone at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.!

Telling Military Time

For starters, I’d like to mention that most European countries don’t refer to a 24-hour clock as military time, it’s just “the time.” Here in the United States the standard is a 12-hour clock, so it’s effectively been called military time due it being a standard there. I was fortunate to have taught myself military time from a young age and remember just wanting to learn it because that’s how the military did things and I’d wanted to join from a young age. When I finally got into the Navy, it wasn’t something I had to get used to, as my watch had been set to it for years.

My method for telling military time is actually the older method I used, I’ve been using it for so long that I just know what the hour is when I hear it. If I’m told 1500, I just know that’s 3 p.m., no conversion necessary. The way I learned though, was through basic arithmetic.

24 Hour Clock

A typical clock has 12 hours, with demarcations for hourly increments. With 24-hour clocks, the “p.m.” hours are typically marked as a sub-number like the clock photo above. As you can see, the “1” is both “1” and “13”. Meaning that by adding 12 to 1, you get 13. This is the same for any hour. To convert 4 p.m. to military time you just add 12. 12 + 4 = 1600 hours. The hours deal is stuck onto the back end when the time is spoken and in my opinion just helps to reinforce that 1600 is a time value and not the number 1,600.

The addition method works, as does subtraction if you’re given the military time and you want to find the “civilian” time. If 1600 is your time, 16 – 12 = 4 p.m. As you can see with a 24-hour clock, there’s no reason to use the AM/PM designation, the time is simply the time.

More on Time

One of the reasons I’m convinced that a 24-hour clock is superior is shown in this example. Hypothetically, say the current time is 8 a.m. and I’m notified that an important event will occur in 10 hours. With a 24 hour clock, I simply add 10, putting the event at 1800. Done. Alternatively, with a 12-hour clock, I have to think… Ok, it’s 4 hours until noon and then another 6 hours puts me at 6 p.m. A little more tricky, especially if I’m telling someone where I’m going. I can’t just say I have a thing at 6. I have to say 6 p.m. To avoid confusion with 6 a.m.

As a refresher, here’s another quick look at the 24-hour clock conversions:

  • 14:00 is 2 p.m. as 12 plus 2 equals 14
  • 16:00 is 4 p.m. as 12 plus 4 equals 16
  • 14:00 is 2 p.m. as 14 minus 12 equals 2
  • 16:00 is 4 p.m. as 16 minus 12 equals 4

When you’re writing military time, don’t use the colon like you do with the 12-hour clock. 1:00 p.m. is 1300. When speaking military time, sound it out. 1835 becomes Eighteen Thirty-Five. The last thing to mention is the 0000 / 2400 conundrum. They’re the same thing and are interchangeable. In the military, you’ll also hear “o’dark hundred,” “zero dark thirty” “zero dark hundred,” etc. These don’t actually mean 0030 or 0000 to most in the military, it’s just a slang way of saying it’s way too early in the *$*@*&% morning for this!

In all, there’s really not much to telling military time and using a 24-hour clock, there’s only another 12 numbers to memorize if you even want to get that detailed. Remember the +/- 12 hour conversion will makes things even easier than memorization and before long the memorization will come. Setting your devices to a 24-hour clock will also help get you there even faster.

If anything, there’s always the fun game you can play when someone who doesn’t know military time asks you the time. Just show them your digital watch or phone that’s displaying military time and watch them try to mentally compute how to figure out what time it is before you chuckle and tell them. That’s just me?

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Discussion

479 comments
Time Tassle
Time Tassle

So as someone who has lived in several countries, this seems simple enough. Actually, I have the same concerns about the metric system. Having a universal way to tell time across the globe is important for trade, military, and emergency response. I think we need to tear the band-aid on both fronts and join the rest of the world in having simple and precise units of measurement and time keeping.

99octane
99octane

All my watches, clocks etc. have been set to what you call "military time" these last 30 years or so. But, as you said, this is standard in europe.
I have an analogic 12 hours wristwatch, but I'm used to call two in the afternoon "fourteen". I don't need to do any "conversion", it's just automatic.
Actually, working in IT, when I get on some american server with the time set in terms of am / pm I find it very annoying.
You should also convert to mks system, as someone else stated. Seriously: the mil dot reticle becomes ridicolously easy to use if you compute distances in meters or km.

Sharky
Sharky

We should switch to the metric system too. Seriously, even the British don't use British measurements any more.

RioT
RioT

i have a g-shock.. what are those 3 circle-shape that fill with seconds what are they do ?!

Sharky
Sharky

@RioT Those geegaws are just for show and take up space on the watch face. I have a G-Shock without the geegaws.

RioT
RioT

@Sharky space and battery !?

Synmastic
Synmastic

All you guys are amateurs. Try telling military time on an analog watch

uterri1107
uterri1107

I've been using "military time" since I was a firefighter back in the early 90s. My phone is on 24 HR time, and I find myself having to struggle to put it back in 12 HR mode for people who don't understand. I think we should definitely go the 24 HR time route.

Tiddys
Tiddys

I don't even say the "hundred" anymore on the time. It's like saying "o'clock" (whatever the hell that is). Quittin time is at 17.

EdandSue Pendy
EdandSue Pendy

Use it all the time...if your doing airport runs,like now ,you always know when its comming or going especially when its 23:50 into 00:20. Subtract 12 from the first number only or add 12 to 11pm. But you know that. No mater where you go there you are,its the same distance. Ok brain surgery and machining are accepted for metric.

Phillip Oliver
Phillip Oliver

Most of Asia uses the 24hr clock. Having both lived there and been Navy for 22 of 50 years, I have no idea why more people don't use it. So much easier and no confusion over time of day.

Jeff Reisner
Jeff Reisner

Whatever you use, if you correct someone on how they use it "its 2pm""you mean 1400?" You're a complete douchebag

I hate Jeff Reisner
I hate Jeff Reisner

shut up Jeff.  telling other people how to behave makes YOU a douchebag.

Leksu
Leksu

I am Polish, and I've been using military time since i was 4 years old. So when someone tells me "It's 2pm." i will ask them if they mean 1400 since i do not use 12-hour format. Calling someone a douchebag because they use a less confusing time format is ridiculous.

Gannon Gold
Gannon Gold

I always use military time it just makes sense but people are so dumb they can't understand it at all.

Gregory Bledsoe
Gregory Bledsoe

I use military time being prior service (Army). It definitely helps eliminate confusion when crossing multiple time zones in trucking.

Gregory Bledsoe
Gregory Bledsoe

Need to tell that teacher that one's are written like this: 1, not like this: -.

James Arroyo
James Arroyo

Used to use it for work but I doubt people will convert

Tyler Brown
Tyler Brown

It doesn't really eliminate a lot of confusion if the people you interact with have never used it and don't know wtf you're talking about. When I was in the military I used it because everyone did, here I don't because most people never have and I care more about communicating effectively than trying to sound tacticool.

Rob Morrell
Rob Morrell

I prefer 24hr, but people get confused when I use it out here in the civilian world lol

Gregg Putman
Gregg Putman

I really don't give a shit what folks want to use. It's what works for me

Robert Hutchinson
Robert Hutchinson

As far as tools go nothing beats a simply "1,2,3,4,5,6..." Sizing system. Our fraction Crap for sizing is just retarded

Dean Bengtson
Dean Bengtson

Lived by military time for the last 30 years......

Jonathan James Rychart
Jonathan James Rychart

Agree with David. It is a cool story, but it's not your decision what people use.

Karkyss Bradham
Karkyss Bradham

Miles is a goddamn name, friend. Ain't never heard of no jazz musician called 'Kilometer' before.

Sonny Selby
Sonny Selby

Military time just got use to it and like it better after serving in the Marines

Blake Thornsbrough
Blake Thornsbrough

Metric is dumb we can learn fractions but europe has diesel in almost everything which we need.

Blake Thornsbrough
Blake Thornsbrough

The COLON was on the paper. He was just filling in the blanks on an incorrect form. It's the paper's fault not his.

Chad Viars
Chad Viars

I use it everyday. For 12 years now. So much easier.

Blake Thornsbrough
Blake Thornsbrough

Quantum leap? Just hoping the next leap is the one that takes you home?

Sean Creahan
Sean Creahan

Because it's not "military time" it's UTC, (Coordinated Universal Time).

Demian J. Park
Demian J. Park

If you look at the paper, there is a semicolon. When you write time in military time, you do not put a semicolon between hours and minutes. 1500 is acceptable but 15:00 is not.

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