From spelling your last name to airline confirmation codes, we frequently have to read a series of letters to someone at a call center over the phone. But many letters sound similar. One way to make your call center encounters more efficient is to use a Military Phonetic Alphabet Cheat Sheet.
Having trouble communicating clusters of characters like usernames, VINs, account numbers or even spelling your last name over the phone? You should try to memorize a Phonetic Alphabet. Learning a spelling alphabet, like the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, will save you time, reduce stress, and have call center agents singing your praises.
NATO PHONETIC ALPHABET QUICK REFERENCE: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.
Origins Of The International Phonetic Alphabet
A Phonetic Alphabet has been used for decades by the US Military, NATO, Police, Coast Guard, and other organizations. Instead of verbally speaking letters when communicating via phone or radio, words from a spelling alphabet are substituted.
For example, if you want to communicate a “J”, just say Juliet, not Jim. Why? Words with common sounds, like “Jim”, can easily be mistaken for Slim, Been, or Rim. The words in the military alphabet code have been carefully chosen for their unique sounds.
NERD NOTE: The military alphabet is more accurately known as IRSA (International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet) and was developed by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) to reduce pronunciation discrepancies during oral radio communications.
The NATO Phonetic Alphabet
Prior to World War I and throughout World War II, many nations and organizations used their own versions of a spelling alphabet. For example, in 1927, the International Telecommunication Union used these code words in their phonetic alphabet: Amsterdam, Baltimore, Casablanca, Denmark, Edison, Florida, Gallipoli, Havana, Italia, Jerusalem, Kilogramme, Liverpool, Madagascar, New York, Oslo, Paris, Quebec, Roma, Santiago, Tripoli, Uppsala, Valencia, Washington, Xanthippe, Yokohama, and Zurich.
But after WWII, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) consolidated their phonetic alphabet efforts and revised it with English, French, Spanish, and other languages spoken by NATO nations in mind.
The final 26 code words in the NATO version of the military alphabet are easy to remember. You probably already know Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Here’s a Military Phonetic Alphabet Cheat Sheet for easy reference. Please print or bookmark this page.
Can You Add Your Own Personal Variations To The Military Phonetic Alphabet?
Don’t try to make up your own spelling alphabet or substitute your own “funny” versions of words. A universal phonetic alphabet is a helpful tool and an international standard. Any deviations from the NATO phonetic alphabet will be underappreciated by everyone.
Why You Should Care About The Military Phonetic Alphabet And Memorize It
I’m currently shopping around for new insurance coverage and recently had to give my car’s VIN number over the phone multiple times. It was a disaster. There was a lot of repeating and a lot of frustration on both sides of the phone.
“I’m sorry sir, was that an M or N?”
“R as in Rob? Or B as in Bob?”
“I’m sorry sir. Can you please repeat the whole number for the fifth time?”
But in my last conversation, I pulled up the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and was able to give my VIN over the phone in one clean attempt. The call center agent on the other end of the phone was so happy. Hopefully, this information on the NATO Phonetic Alphabet will help you too.
Accessing The NATO Phonetic Alphabet On The Go Using Mobile Apps
If you find yourself needing a phonetic alphabet cheat sheet on a regular basis, then you might want to bookmark this article. Or you can download the NATO Phonetic Alphabet (iOS) app from Apple’s iOS App Store.
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Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.