Why you should avoid abbreviating 2020 on official documents

By Troy Palmquist
Posted on January 7, 2020

Recalling the two-digit-year hysteria of Y2K, everyone from cyber security experts to local police officials are joining together with a New Year’s warning this January: Don’t abbreviate the year on your checks.

For real estate agents, the warnings are even more important because so much of what we do involves signed and dated documents as well as contracts and addenda that involve deadlines, timelines and dates.

Why is everyone so worried about dating your docs with ’20 instead of 2020?

Unlike past years, because 2020 has the same two-number combination at the beginning and end, a document or check dated 1/1/20 could be changed to 1/1/2019 or 2000 or any other year. That could call into question the legitimacy of a document or a check and create problems when trying to verify the information on a contract.

Although some argue that the same could have been said for 2019, since 1/1/19 could be altered to 1999, for example, officials say that the ’20 abbreviation is far more likely to be used, since it can indicate a time in the recent past or even in the future if changed to 2021.

Whether you think it’s overkill or a timely reminder, if you’d rather be safe than sorry, it’s probably a good idea to write the date out more fully this year.

Where did this come from anyway?

The advice about abbreviating 2020 has been credited in most media outlets to the East Millinocket, Maine, police department. It posted the advice on its Facebook page on the evening of Jan. 1, 2020, and from there it was picked up by a number of platforms from local television stations to Forbes and other online publications.

The EMPD, however, credits the advice to George E. Moore Law Office, LLC, located in Celina, Ohio, which posted it on its Facebook page just minutes before.