N1GY- The simple Approach to Ham Radio
and My Model Railroad Hobby
A point was raised by another operator last night about the proper terms to use on the amateur bands. The amateur bands are an inclusive area and a certain amount of freedom to use individual examples of terminology has always been a hallmark of the hobby. Having said that, however, there are good reasons to use a certain amount of standardized terms. Particularly when we are participating in disaster communications, this concept becomes vital. Even in non-emergency communications, however, the use of standard phrases makes the information we are attempting to convey easier to understand.
First, and foremost in my mind, is CLARITY. We want our message, be it a call sign, a name, or a location to be clearly heard and understood by the other operator. If we use terms or phonetics of our own design, we risk having the person listening to us get confused or get the message incorrect. For this reason alone we as operators should learn, use and stick to the accepted phonetic alphabet as published by the ARRL and other radio organizations.
Second, the use of terms peculiar to another service, such as "Personal" when we mean "Name", mark us to other operators, sometimes unfairly. Here again, the ARRL has stated in many publications, that the use of misunderstood "lingo" is poor operating practice. Even the ubiquitous "Q" signs of CW are not appropriate to phone operations. Their original purpose, as a kind of shorthand that shortened the time necessary to send a message in Morse Code, still exists, but ONLY in Morse Code. The use of QRM or QTH may be very frequent on the voice ham bands since most operators know the meaning of these terms, but a few operators insist on using arcane Q signs. All this does is confuse the other operator. If these individuals are doing this to make it appear that they are super hams, they should stop. All it does is irritate the rest of us, and slow the passage of information down due to having to repeat the term in plain English. Why not do it in plain English to begin with.
Third, as the operator who brought the subject up noted, we are under observation very often. Government agencies, relief organizations, law enforcement, fire and EMS entities are the very clients we serve when disaster strikes. We, as radio operators, must be cognizant of how we present ourselves to these agencies. That means being as professional as we can while we do our "thing", Radio Communications.
As a reminder to all amateur radio operators, here is the phonetic alphabet in its proper form, courtesy of the ARRL.ALFA, BRAVO, CHARLIE, DELTA, ECHO, FOXTROT, GOLF, HOTEL, INDIA, JULIET, KILO, LIMA, MIKE, NOVEMBER, OSCAR, PAPA, QUEBEC, ROMEO, SIERRA, TANGO, UNIFORM, VICTOR, WHISKEY, X-RAY, YANKEE, ZULU.
If you are telling someone your name, it is your NAME, not your "personal". If you are telling someone where you live, it is your address, not your QTH, unless of course, you are using Morse Code. Same thing for QRU. You are asking if the other operator has anything for you so just say that. Don't make the other operator puzzle around the shack trying to figure out what the heck QRU means. Same thing for QRL, QRO, QTB etc. These terms are appropriate for Morse Code, not voice comms on FM. Please do NOT use the "10-code" on amateur radio. Not even 10-4! Q-signs or codes have their place in the CW mode, but they are not really appropriate for voice communications. By the way, a frequently heard term on amateur radio is the term "73". Note please that I said "73", not 73's. The term which is shorthand for "best regards" per the latest definition from the ARRL originated with telegraphers in the 19th century. It should not be pluralized. It is "73".
OK, I have made a pest out of myself for long enough. Just remember, the purpose is to get the message across clearly, not to confound us by trying too hard to sound like an old hand. When in doubt, just say it in plain English, that usually works best.