stop using time zone abbreviations

2022-03-27

During online correspondence of any kind, we often need to express what time zone we are in. Even though time zones can be a complex thing, this task isn’t complex at all. Telling the other person what offset your time zone has from UTC is enough in cases. However some people want to make their lives harder for themselves and others, so they use time zone abbreviations.

Time zone abbreviations are inferior to UTC±hhmm notation for many reasons. The obvious one is that they require the reader to know what time zone the given abbreviation stands for. But that wouldn’t be that bad. You can just type the abbreviation into google (or any other search engine) and know what offset from UTC it has.

Problem is when the abbreviation you are looking for translates to multiple time zones. For example CST stands for: Central Standard Time, China Standard Time, and Cuba Standard Time. There are also often multiple abbreviations for one time zone. For example CXT and DAVT both mean UTC+07. This is a consequence to lack of standardization in this area and the fact that words are used to represent numbers.

This isn’t all though. During the second world war and the 1970s energy crisis, many states implemented daylight saving time (DST). Even though it is obsolete, it is still kept around the world - probably to make our lives more difficult. This article isn’t about DST though. It is about time zone abbreviations. How do abbreviations represent DST? They change. Some in a sane way. For example CET to CEST. However some change in a completely stupid way. PST is a good example. It changes to PDT during the summer. This change makes the abbreviation look comletely different and can further confuse people.

In conclusion time zone abbreviations are hard to remember, ambiguous, remind us of the existence of DST and are all around a worse solution than telling your offset from UTC. Please tell everyone using them, why they ought not to, or send them this article.

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This article is under the public domain.