Writing Years with AD (Anno Domini), BC (Before Christ), BCE, and CE

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
To cater to religious diversity, the abbreviations BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) can be used to replace BC and AD.

Of note, AD is written before the year, while BC, BCE, and CE are all written after the year. For example:
  • 2020 CE or AD 2020
  • 487 BCE or 487 BC

Writing Years with AD, BC, BCE, and CE

The abbreviation AD (Anno Domini) means "in the year of the Lord" and denotes "of the Christian Era." It is written before the year. The abbreviation BC (Before Christ) is written after the year. For example:
  • AD 2001
  • 487 BC
  • Caesar Augustus ruled from 27 BC to AD 14.
writing years AD, BC, CE, and BCE

Real-Life Examples of Writing Years with AD, BC, BCE, and CE

Here are some real-life examples of writing years:


should be AD 2000
(comic title)



correct
(brick building)



should be AD 71 and AD 109
(magazine article)

Using BCE and CE

To cater to religious diversity, the abbreviations BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) can be used to replace BC and AD. BCE and CE are written after the year. For example:
  • 2017 CE is the same as AD 2017
  • 487 BCE is the same as 487 BC
Here is the earlier example again written in both conventions:
  • Caesar Augustus ruled from 27 BC to AD 14.
  • Caesar Augustus ruled from 27 BCE to 14 CE.

The "Christian" Calendar Is Widely Used

While other calendars are in use today, the "Christian" calendar now dominates. The Christian calendar starts from the birth of Christ in the year zero (AD 0).

Here are some other calendars:
  • The Chinese calendar dates back to 2700 BC.
  • The Hindu calendar dates back to 3100 BC.
  • The Muslim calendar starts from the Hijra (Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina) in AD 622.
  • The Jewish calendar starts around 5,800 years ago from the date of the creation as described in scripture.
  • The Roman calendar (not used) counted from 753 BC or 0 AUC. AUC stands for "Ab Urbe Condita" and means "foundation of the city [Rome]." The Roman calendar was used until AD 525. Of interest, the founder of the AUC calendar forgot that Emperor Augustus ruled for four years as Octavian before changing his name, and – as he used Roman numerals not Arabic numbers – he overlooked the years 0 BC or AD 0. These errors were never corrected.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Full stops (periods) in contractions Forming the plurals of abbreviations Using full stops (periods) in abbreviations Ms., Miss., or Mrs.?