I am writing a corporate guidelines manual.

The manual itself is made in InDesign, and contains sample documents in it that show employees how to correctly write/format despatches.

These documents (made in Illustrator) have made up dates on them, which include the year, to exemplify a real written despatch.

This manual will be printed and distributed and cannot be updated later on, therefore I am trying to find a way to not have it be aged by the dates contained in the documents. I would still like to show a full sample date so to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding for the employees reading it, but sticking '5 may 2016' in the sample documents contained in the manual would make it obviously outdated in 2017.

Now, I want to keep these documents from looking outdated in a year, without having to update it every year though, and I can't figure out how to do so while including the year.

How could I achieve this clear exemplification while keeping my manual timeless?

EDIT: Edited the question based on comments to make it clearer.

  • 1
    Either a macro of the document showing the current date or just skip the year. Not sure though, why you would want that in technical writing. The information when the document actually originated is a valuable information and likely the reason why it's in the template in the first place.
    – Helmar
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:01
  • Maybe I wasn't clear enough. This is a manual for employees, containing corporate guidelines. The documents I'm mentioning are samples that show them how to write a correct despatch, etc. Nothing to do with programming. Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 17:49
  • No no, sorry, that is not my question. I am typing the date by hand in the document, which is made in Adobe Illustrator and then inserted in the manual which is made in Adobe Indesign. So there's no automaticity or updating or anything, the date is there and is solid and it's made up by me when I create this faux document. What I'm asking is if there's a way to have that date seem generic in regards to its year, so that a year later someone doesn't read the manual and go 'oh, it says (sample date) 5 July 2016, this must have been made in 2016', which makes it get outdated fast. Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


You are concerned that a document containing a recent, past date (like from last year) will make readers think your document is out of date. One way to address that is to use dates that are obviously not recent -- Jan 1 1970, Dec 31 2037, etc.

If you have a section in the frontmatter about document conventions (the place where documents sometimes talk about special formatting), consider adding a note there saying that you've used ficticious dates in preference to placeholders like "YYYY".

  • Thank you for the answer Monica! I hadn't considered this at all but it makes sense: picking a year that is obviously not current should definitely solve the 'just-barely-outdated' funny feeling. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 1:04

One device sometimes used is to use hyphens or underscores or X's instead of the last couple of digits of the year. Like instead of writing, "May 1, 2016" write "May 1, 20--", "May 1, 20__", or "May 1, 20XX". This might conceivably confuse a reader into thinking that they are supposed to put dashes or whatever instead of the full year, but I think most readers would get the idea.

Somewhat like Monica Cellio's answer, I've sometimes used dates of well-known events in cases like this. Like "December 7, 1941" or "July 4, 1776". (Significant dates in the US. If you're from another country, use well-known dates from your history.) I have sometimes worried, though, that using such far-past dates will be distracting.

Another option is to just not worry about it. I've often read manuals and books that have a sample form or letter or whatever with a date that is a few years past, and I generally think nothing of it. If it's far enough past, I may notice and wonder when the book was written.

I suppose a lot depends on whether the reader expects the manual to be "up to date". If I was reading a book about, say, how to grow tomatoes in your back yard, that probably hasn't changed much over time, so if I realized the book was 30 years old I'd be likely to shrug it off. If I was reading a book about tax law, that changes all the time and I'd be concerned that an old book might be out of date. And of course something about computers or cell phones could be out of date within a couple of years. My point being, if readers realize that the manual was written 5 years ago, will they care? If you're talking about a company procedures manual or something like that, I presume your readers will assume that if the manual was not up to date, the company wouldn't still be using it, so this is probably a non-issue.

  • Thank you Jay, this is helpful feedback. You are correct on the point of reader perception, it probably won't matter that much to them if the thing is a few years old as long as they see it's in use! Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 19:33

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