The UK Phonetic Alphabet


Stationery, chalkboard and UK flag on color background with words

621

What is the UK Phonetic Alphabet?

The UK Phonetic Alphabet is a way of spelling out letters that can be easily confused on the telephone.

For example, over the telephone, the postcode “NP2 3BP” could easily be misheard as “MB2 3PP” which would be a very different location.

The Postcode “NP2 3BP” could easily be misheard as “MB2 3PP”

Names can also be confused – for example the name Mickey sounds very much like Nicky.

And if you are asking for clarification if you say “Is that Mickey with an M” sounds very similar to “Is that Nicky with a N”

To get around that the phonetic alphabet was developed.

So you could say is that Nicky starting with N for November. It then becomes very much easier to clarify spellings.

So for the postcode you say – “Was the Postcode MB2 3PP as in Mike Bravo 2 3 Papa Papa?”

To get around this letters are spelled out as words, hence, A for Alpha, B for Bravo

The Standard Phonetic Alphabet used in the UK is the NATO phonetic alphabet

UK Phonetic Alphabet
UK (NATO) Phonetic Alphabet

A – Alpha

B – Bravo

C – Charlie

D – Delta

E – Echo

F – Foxtrot

G – Golf

H – Hotel

I – India

J – Juliette

K – Kilo

L – Lima

M – Mike

N – November

O – Oscar

P – Papa

Q – Quebec

R – Romeo

S – Sierra

T – Tango

U – Uniform

V – Victor

W – Whiskey

X – X-Ray

Y – Yankee

Z – Zulu

 

Printable UK Phonetic Alphabet

Do you want to download this to share with your team?

Easily Confused Spoken letters

A number of letters in the English Language are Easily Confused

  • B, C, D, E, G, P, T and V
  • M and N
  • F, S and X
  • Y and I
  • G and J (particularly when pronounced by a non-native speaker)

The Modified UK Phonetic Alphabet

A lot of our readers pointed out that although the NATO alphabet works well if both people understand it, it is not so easily understood in a telephonic format as it uses less commonly used words such as “Sierra” or “Foxtrot”.

We have replaced the less common words and have produced a UK Phonetic Alphabet for Phone Calls. We have highlighted the words that have changed from the standard NATO version.

The UK Phonetic Alphabet for Phone Calls

Modified UK Phonetic Alphabet
Modified UK Phonetic Alphabet

A – Apple

B – Bravo

C – Charlie

D – Delta

E – Echo

F – Freddie

G – Golf

H – Hotel

I – India

J – Juliette

K – Kilo

L – London

M – Monkey

N – November

O – Orange

P – Papa

Q – Queen

R – Robert

S – Sugar

T – Tommy

U – Uncle

V – Victor

W – Whiskey

X – X-Ray

Y – Yellow

Z – Zulu

Printable Modified UK Phonetic Alphabet

Do you want to download this to share with your team?

Simplified UK Phonetic Alphabet

Victoria Williams, Senior Professional Services Manager at Vonage, uses a different version of the phonetic alphabet and has shared her version with us:

Simplified UK Phonetic Alphabet

A – Apple

B – Biscuit

C – Cat

D – Dog

E – elephant

F – Fish

G – Gorilla

H – Happy

I – Ice Cream

J – Juliette

K – Kilo

L – Lemon

M – Monkey

N – No One

O – Orange

P – Papa

Q – Queen

R – Romeo

S – Sunshine (or Sugar)

T – Tango

U – Umbrella

V – Victoria

W – Whiskey

X – X-ray

Y – Yesterday

Z – Zip

What Do Our Readers Think?

Used as Part of Induction Training

Way back when I used to be on the phones over 20 years ago, this was the normal practise at the company I worked at. We all used phonetic alphabet and it was formally part of the training. Customers understood it as a means to relay back spelling of names or alpha numeric references for confirmation.

Thanks to Guy

Strong Correlation Between Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and the Phonetic Alphabet

I’ve just analysed 10,000 call transcripts for a major UK bank.

Use of the phonetic alphabet was not found once in any NPS Detractor conversations.

Conversely, 4.6% of all NPS promotors feature this behaviour. Of course, there’s far more going on than this, but the absence of this agent behaviour correlates highly with the worst customer NPS outcomes.

Thanks to Andrew Moorhouse at Deloitte

Use A for Apple as some Customers Struggle

I remember in my first agent role we used to have it on a printout stuck to the screen (retro!) following training.

I’ve always used a “simple” Phonetic – switched Alpha for Apple etc as some customers struggled.

So a Hybrid but still used!

An Absolute Must

Any teams I work with have to learn the phonetic alphabet! This might sound old-fashioned – however it helps customers and advisors to spell correctly – which is an absolute must!

Thanks to Marianne Rutz

Improves Quality and Reduces Errors

first thing they get trained in training when in a contact centre role. It’s a must, not only does it help with noting customers accounts and capturing accurate information, it helps with quality as reduces the amount of input error on systems and calls. An absolute must in my opinion.

Thanks to Jennifer

Use S for Sugar

We always encourage people to check details and the phonetic alphabet is standard for that. We find customers hear C instead of S for Sierra, so S for Sugar tends to be the go-to.

Some of our clients get creative with it – the HP postcode could become Harry Potter for instance. It depends on who your customers are.

I have heard of “n” for Knickers on my travels, and that is the reason why we use the Phonetic Alphabet!

Thanks to Diane Banister

Printed Sheets During Training

Robert Sykes Headshot

Robert Sykes

We used it all the time in the Ambulance service, it was never a problem to train and no one ever had an issue using it.

We printed a sheet that went in their personal folder when they started but to be fair after a week everyone knew it. I haven’t used it for many years but it seems to stay in your head. It is easily understood as the words are chosen so they can’t be misunderstood for a similar word.

If I said “B for Bear” you might hear “Bare, Care, Fair, Lair, Mare” whereas “B for Bravo” can’t be mistaken.

If I said “B for Bear” you might hear “Bare, Care, Fair, Lair, Mare” whereas “B for Bravo” can’t be mistaken.

It is only critical in critical circumstances, where you have a call centre and mis hearing just takes longer to get a name or a postcode it is just a matter of time.

Thanks to Robert Sykes

A Key Part of Induction Training

Advisors must use the ‘proper’ phonetic alphabet on every call when confirming details captured.
We have it up on a whiteboard and everyone has a custom print-out in front of them. It’s also taught in our induction program. It’s easy to learn and callers respond well.

Thanks to Hero PA

Use M for Muhammad in Islamic countries

I believe it’s the most historical reliable method. It’s easy to train, but you need to keep flexibility within cultural and custom preferences as it will be easier to implement it.

Such as the M letter could be “Muhammad in Islamic countries” or “Mike in western countries”

Customers do understand it easily.

Thanks to Dani B. AtaAllah

Use Words the Customer Understands

Kim Ellis

Kim Ellis

I have always included the phonetic alphabet in the induction training.

I have emphasised that as long as you and the customer know which letter you are saying then it’s OK.

For example, O for orange is fine.

Thanks to Kim Ellis

Use it in Role Play, Team Building Games and Quizzes

I learned the phonetic alphabet in my contact centre induction training (back when Noah was building his ark!) I still use it now. It is clear and simple and really improves accuracy.

It was easy to train, and we built it in to other aspects of training (role play, team building games and quizzes) to confirm understanding etc. So it was an ever present.

Thanks to Elaine Lee

To Build Rapport Mirror the Customer

I’ve always taught my agents to use the phonetic alphabet but as a way to build rapport mirror the customer. For example, if the customer says S for Sugar, repeat that back rather than S for Sierra.

Thanks to Jason


Fun Facts

The Phonetic Alphabet is used as a clue in a number of crossword puzzles

What is a Name in the Phonetic Alphabet?

There are six names in the phonetic alphabet:

  1. Charlie
  2. Juliette
  3. Oscar
  4. Mike
  5. Romeo
  6. Victor

Comedy Phonetic Alphabet

During the second world war, Arthur Askey produced a Comedy Phonetic Alphabet, which is sometimes known as the Cockey Alphabet.

It started with:

  • “A is for ‘Orses” – “Hay is for Horses”
  • “B for Mutton” – “Beef or Mutton” although the airline meal request of “Beef or Chicken” may be better
  • “C for Highlanders” – “Seaforth Highlanders” A Scottish regiment in the British Army – “See for Miles” would be better

Do you use a different Phonetic Alphabet?

Please drop us a line to newsdesk@callcentrehelper.com

To discover more about the phonetic alphabet, read this article next:

Published On: 13th May 2022 - Last modified: 20th May 2022
Read more about - Skills, , , , , ,


Recommended Articles

A photo of colourful alphabet letters
Definition: What is the Phonetic Alphabet?
Word Spotting vs. Phonetic Search vs Speech Recognition
A group of files saying data, confidential, company and clients
Data Protection Act, GDPR and Call Recording Laws in the UK
Get the latest exciting call centre reports, specialist whitepapers and interesting case-studies.

Choose the content that you want to receive.