Spelling it out – using the NATO phonetic alphabet to our advantage

NATO phonetic alphabet schemeWhen instructing a user to type something, when reading a serial key or when spelling anything via a phone line, radio connection or similar, a problem arises at times; the person on the other end either does not understand what is being said, or understands what is being said as something different to what is actually being said.
This is easily remedied by replacing each letter with a word. The problem is, not all words are suited for this. Many attempts to standardize what words to substitute has been made, but the scheme I have found the best, most logical and easy to understand, is the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Since I adopted it, I have only seen three instances where it has failed me, all of which were due to the recipient having a preconceived notion of what I was about to say. It is clear, simple to learn, and easily understood.





3 responses to “Spelling it out – using the NATO phonetic alphabet to our advantage”

  1. rhysbartels

    im so surprised this is not standard practice for most call centers. its even worse when they make up really bad substitutes on the fly.

  2. Jose

    That is easy to use but only has to memorized and the others fox has to have an idea too.

    1. Yes, you would need to memorize them, but the one on the other line would not need to know the exactitudes of how the system works, only how words are spelled. It also saves people from having to think about what letters to use, and all of these words are easily enough understood with regards to spelling that there is no doubt that if you say “Uniform, Sierra, Bravo”, you mean to spell USB.

      And frankly, if you’re not willing to spend a little time either memorizing a list like this, or at least printing it for easy reference, you do not belong in the service industry, or as a worker doing anything that might be considered more than mildly taxing.

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