Message Handling Tips
- Punctuation marks are not used in the text with few exceptions,
like "X," used to denote a period. Other punctuation marks are
spelled as with "QUERY" for a question mark.
- What about names like "St. Louis"? The consensus is that it
would be two words, the first being a "letter group", spelled
phonetically as "Sierra Tango" (no punctuation).
- The signature at the end of a Radiogram is not included in the
"count" in the preamble.
- Radiograms will normally indicate the time in Coordinated Universal
Time (UTC) using the 24 hour clock, or will not have the time
listed (time and handling instruction are optional).
- Although you will usually see handling instructions (HX) on an ARRL
Radiogram, they are actually optional. If someone is reading the
preamble of a Radiogram and skips over the handling instructions,
it is likely that there weren't any.
- The "time filed" Radiogram entry is also optional.
- When there are handling instructions, you should read the "HX" plus
the other letter. Example: HXC (Hotel X-Ray Charlie)
- If this is a numbered Radiogram, the letters "ARL" plus a number
would be put in the Preamble under Check. It is also
to be noted that sometimes Radiograms contain several numbered
messages. They can also have extra sentences in them. This must
all be in the Check box in the Preamble.
When reading the Check Box in the Preamble of a Numbered Radiogram, the preferred way is to read ARL as just letters, no saying of "letter group", and no phonetics. The same is true for when ARL is read in the text.
- Read the message so that it makes sense. That does not always mean
a group of five words. And, yes, there can be more than 25 words in
- There are numerous versions of the ICS-213 form, but they all
contain the same basic elements. The message is TO someone and
that person has a POSITION or title. The message is FROM
someone, who also has a POSITION or title. The message has
a SUBJECT and was created on a specific DATE at a certain TIME.
Then there is the MESSAGE itself. Following the message is a
SIGNATURE and that person's POSITION. While these elements may
be arranged in different ways or two elements may be in the
same box, they are functionally still identical. If you know
how use one version of the form, you should have no trouble
using any of the others. (Exception: The "ARRL ICS-213" form
has additional elements, but we do not anticipate using this
form any time soon.)
- All ICS-213 messages are local and therefore the "TIME:" field
indicates the local time, using the 24 hour clock.
- Punctuation marks will be read as they are so named: Example: A "."
(period) will be read "period"; A "," (comma) will be read "comma"
and so on.
- Always spell out homonyms such as "to", "too", and "two".
- When reading acronyms or abbreviations, such as ARES, CDC or
FBI, say "letter group" and then say each letter phonetically.
- When reading a combination of letters and number, such as ESF8,
say "mixed group" and then say each letter phonetically.
- Sometimes you will find a typo in a message. You may make
note of it, but do not correct it.
Always read the message exactly as it is written, and write it down
exactly as you hear it on the air. (Reason: Sometimes it's
not a typo, but rather the distinctive jargon used by the sender
and receiver. Rather than second-guess which it is, we always
send the message unaltered.)
- When reading an amateur radio call sign, it is recommended that
you say it phonetically.
- When reading the body of a message, the style I favor is to
read a single line slowly, inserting phonetics and any other
clarifications, and then repeat the line at a conversational
speed before moving on to the next line.
- It is best to spell out difficult or unusual words, such as
"beseiged" or "chiggers".
- Spell out all proper names as most can have more than one spelling,
such as "Philip" and "Phillip", or "Stephen" and "Steven".
- When reading a message over the air, remember that the person at
the other end is writing it down. Go slowly, and give them time
to write long or complicated words.
- Using the terms, "words after" or "all after" is appropriate any
time parts of a message are not understood.
Possible exception: The receiving operator did not get various
parts of the street address. It is easier to just say: "I need a
fill of the address". It is faster and easier to ask for the
entire address than to try to communicate all the fills needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
If the intended recipient of a message is not on the air and no
phone number is given, how does one deliver it?
There is no answer that fits every situation, but generally
speaking, by any means necessary.
Why is there a "From" and also a "Signature" section? Aren't they
the same thing?
The two sections serve different purposes. The "From" indicates
the office where the message originated, while the "Signature"
indicates the authority that makes the message official. While
the two sections may contain the same information, they don't
Why is there no place on the message forms for the sending and
receiving operators, and possibly relay operators?
In the context of the message, they are not important. That
information would, however, be noted in the operators' logs.
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