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Talking Telephone Numbers

February 29, 2012

Considering how often we use phone numbers, a lot of people aren’t good at saying them aloud. It’s all a matter of how you chunk it – where you put the breaks, either as pauses when speaking, or as spaces when writing. With London phone numbers, for instance, many people give 0207 or 0208 as the code, followed by a seven-figure number. This is incorrect; the 7 or 8 is not part of the code, it’s part of the number: you still have to dial it whether you are in the same area or not. The break or pause should come after the 020 (of course if you’re both in London you needn’t specify the 020 at all). Then there should be another break or pause after the first four numbers. Chunking the number into two groups of four makes it easier to say, to hear and to remember. 

As for mobile phone numbers, a lot of people simply recite these as a breathless string of 11 numbers (particularly infuriating when left as an answerphone message). Nobody can remember 11 numbers. The best way to tell someone your mobile is to omit the 07 (why bother with it? They all start with 07) and give it as three triplets with short pauses in between. That’s very easy to assimilate and remember. Can everyone do it like that, please? 

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