These are common pieces of information you will need to exchange during conversations on the air. While Q-Codes and RST reports are intended to be a shorthand for rapidly exchanging information. The Phonetic alphabet is intentionally not a short hand to ensure clear legible communication.

Many new HAM’s are tempted to substitute phonetics instead of memorizing the standard alphabet. Don’t be tempted to think the “Siera” for “S” can be substituted for “Sugar” or “Sam”. In other languages “Sugar” does not start with a “S” (Spanish: azúcar, Italian: zucchero, French: sucre, German: Zucker); and Sam may not be a common name where they come from.

It’s important to remember that we all learn a universal phonetic alphabet among English speakers, so that when we are speaking with non-Native English speakers we are not throwing new words at them that don’t translate to their alphabet. There are also plenty of native English speakers whose dialects are far enough apart from who they are speaking with that they can not understand each other easily.

Be a courteous HAM and learn the proper phonetics

Standard ITU Phonetics

AAlfa  HHotel  OOscar  UUniform
BBravo  IIndia  PPapa  VVictor
CCharlie  JJuliet  QQuebec  WWhiskey
DDelta  KKilo  RRomeo  XX-Ray
EEcho  LLima  SSierra  YYankee
FFoxtrot  MMike  TTango  ZZulu
GGolf  NNovember 

Common Q Signals

Q Signals are short hand codes that take their roots in morse code. While HAM’s are no longer required to learn morse code for the exam, it is still alive and well on the air waves.

Digital modes are also very popular on the airwaves. When communicating using your computer, Q-Codes are still used by HAM’s as a means of shortening what they are typing to one and other.

Q Signals followed by a Question Mark take the form of a question

QRG Your exact frequency (or that of ___) is ___kHz.
Will you tell me my exact frequency (or that of ___)?
QRL I am busy (or I am busy with ___).
Are you busy?
QRM Your transmission is being interfered with ___.
1. Nil;
2. Slightly;
3. Moderately
4. Severely
5. Extremely
Is my transmission being interfered with?
QRN I am troubled by static ___. (1 to 5 as under QRM)
Are you troubled by static?
QRO Increase power.
Shall I increase power?
QRP Decrease power.
Shall I decrease power?
QRQ Send faster (___wpm).
Shall I send faster?
QRS Send more slowly (___wpm).
Shall I send more slowly?
QRT Stop sending.
Shall I stop sending
QRU I have nothing for you.
Have you anything for me?
QRV I am ready.
Are you ready?
QRX I will call you again at ___ hours (on ___kHz).
Will you call me again?
QRZ You are being called by ___ (on ___kHz).
Who is calling me?
QSB Your signals are fading.
Are my signals fading?
QSK I can hear you between signals; break in on my
transmission. Can you hear me between your signals
and if so may I break in on your transmission?
QSL I am acknowledging receipt. Can you acknowledge
receipt (of a message or transmission)?
QSN I did hear you (or ___) on ___kHz. Did you hear me
(or ___) on ___kHz?
QSO I can communicate with ___ direct (or relay through ___).
Can you communicate with ___ direct or by relay?
QSP I will relay to ___.
Will you relay to ___?
QST General call preceding a message addressed to all
amateurs and ARRL members.
This is in effect “CQ ARRL.”
QSX I am listening to ___ on ___kHz.
Will you listen to ___ on ___kHz?
QSY Change to transmission on another frequency
(or on ___kHz). Shall I change to transmission on
another frequency (or On ___kHz)?
QTB I do not agree with your counting of words.
I will repeat the first letter or digit of each word or group.
Do you agree with my counting of words?
QTC I have ___ messages for you (or for ___).
How many messages have you to send?
QTH My location is ___.
What is your location?
QTR The time is ___.
What is the correct time?
QUA I have news of ___.
Do you have news?

RST Reports

Readability, Strength and Tone reports are intended to be a shorthand way of reporting back another stations signal qualities. As the name suggests, the 3 elements are given back numerically.

For example a top quality RST report would be 599. Meaning Readability is 5, Strength is 9 and Tone is 9.

Conversely a very bad RST report would be 111.

  • Readability

    1. A signal is “there” but is unreadable
    2. Words or characters can be detected, but much of the transmission is missed
    3. Readable with difficulty; most of the transmission can be understood
    4. Readable with only a little difficulty
    5. Readable without difficulty
  • Strength

    1. Signal just barely audible
    2. Very weak signal
    3. Weak signal
    4. Fair signal
    5. Medium signal
    6. Good Signal
    7. Moderately strong signal
    8. Strong signal
    9. Powerful, “local quality signal
  • Tone

    1. Very rough, noisy sound-painful to hear!
    2. Rough, noisy sound
    3. “Buzzing” sound
    4. Smoother “buzzing” sound
    5. Rough, varying tone without “buzz”
    6. Slightly smoother varying tone
    7. Tone varies in a steady pattern
    8. Slightly varying tone
    9. Pure, steady tone