Don’t Be a Lid

“Lid” is ham-speak to denote a poor operator; one who is inept at the practice of the radio amateur art.  It is someone with very poor operating technique, a newbie or an experienced ham that acts like a neophyte. This old term likely originated from the days of wired telegraphy.

A previous post entitled, What Can I Say?,  presented more don’ts than dos, which was appropriate considering the topic.  This is a good time to review it.

In addition to those prohibitions, we’ll expand on the topic and add a few more things a good ham doesn’t do, assuming you don’t want to be known as a lid.  Most are things a good ham should avoid saying.  In fact, this article was originally entitled, What Should I Not Say?

There are some bad habits certain hams need to break, mainly because it demonstrates ignorance and carelessness.  Other amateurs may not take you seriously if you practice these things.  Numerous ham websites list pet peeves containing these bad practices (a few are linked below).

Some liddish behavior is understandable or excusable in a brand new ham but habits form quickly.  These are generally frowned upon and the perpetrator may find themselves publicly shamed (in a hammy context).  Don’t let it happen to you!

Here is a short list of things a ham should not do:

  • Use of CB lingo and police/public safety codes.  “10-4″,”what’s your 20?”, and “breaker” are particularly egregious.
  • Calling CQ or another station on an occupied frequency.  This is the worst form of QRM.  Hams should always ask if a frequency is in use (QRL?) first.
  • Checking into a net or answering a CQ without identifying phonetically.  But once you are acknowledged you should ID without phonetics.
  • Partial phonetics is also bad form (e.g., KG5-alpha-bravo-charlie).
  • Talking too far from or directly into the mic.  See our microphone technique topic.
  • Using the term “broadcasting”.  Hams never, ever broadcast; they transmit.  The word broadcast has a very particular meaning to the FCC.


  • Using too much power or audio level (splatter) on digital modes
  • Adding an S to 73.  73 by itself is fine, but pluralizing it (73s or 73’s) is the equivalent of saying “best regardses”, which doesn’t make sense.


  • Calling your small VHF/UHF radio a Handie-Talkie.  HT means handheld transceiver, not Handy Talkie.

This is a handheld transceiver ⇒       zys-ft-60r

This is a Handie-Talkie ⇒  170px-Portable_radio_SCR536     See the difference?

  • Briefly keying your mic on a repeater without ID.  See our topic on Kerchunking.
  • Calling CQ on a VHF/UHF repeater.

Funny CQ 2m

If you want to talk to somebody/anybody, simply ID and ask for a QSO.

  • Over-use of Q-codes and other unique ham lingo.  Makes sense in CW work but not on a local VHF net.
  • Saying “over” on a repeater.  The closing squelch and courtesy tone let everybody know that you are done transmitting.

All of these are bad practice; lid-like behavior, although only a few are likely to earn a good public scolding, depending on the audience.

Bad behavior and poor practice have an interesting bit of history in ham radio.  In its infancy, some licensed amateurs demonstrated liddish traits while getting back on the air after the interruption of The Great War (WW1).  The situation was bad enough that a leading amateur introduced two implements of correction for bad hams.

The Wouff-Hong is used to enforce law and order in amateur radio operating work.


The Rettysnitch is used to enforce decency.


The Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch are amateur radio’s traditional and most sacred symbols.  Both are now part of amateur radio lore and if you hear their use being threatened, it’s time to pay attention.

So avoid all these things and you are less likely to be called a lid.  There are many other bad practices out there, mostly on HF bands so study up on them.

If you want to learn more about lid behavior, here are some web references:

Forty-one ways to sound like a LID (negative examples)

Are you a lid?

SO YOU WANT TO BE A LID!  (negative examples)

Ham Radio Menace (humorous video with some lid behavior)

8 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Lid

    • Your comment is tongue in cheek, I hope, Dave. We don’t mean to scare people off, just alert new hams that bad behavior and practice does exist and that they may get called out for it. Don’t make me use the wouff hong! hihi


  1. One of these LID related articles even mentions that “it is not legal” to identify oneself with standard phonetics.

    Sometimes I just feel so stressed by these unwritten laws such that I often choose to avoid transmitting.

    Other times I have to encourage myself by saying to myself, ok, if I lose my license because of this transmission I won’t be so stressed like this again. Go for it.


    • I don’t know where that [“it is not legal” to identify oneself with standard phonetics] statement came from… but you are right that these “unwritten laws” serve to stress out new operators and keep them off the air! You won’t lose your license for an honest mistake. Many people are doing bad stuff every day (on purpose) that don’t lose theirs. For some reason, in most hobbies, good old boys clicks form to make new people feel inadequate (I guess to make them feel more important). This may well result from how they were treated when they started and the belief that they should pass it along to those who follow them. Who knows? Keep transmitting… and keep learning and become the kind of operator and Elmer we all should be!


  2. One LIDism that I hear far to often is the idiots, frequently listening to themselves on another radio, who find it necessary to punctuate every few words by blowing or exhaling into the mic while talking. “I hear you Phil, (blow), I was driving (blow) into town this morning (blow), and saw a bad wreck in the left lane (blow). I can’t believe grown men enjoy the sound of their own breath going into the mic so much.


    • That certainly is annoying! I’m not sure, however, what gives you the idea they are listening to themselves on another radio. I don’t personally know anyone who does that. Even listening through a monitor tends to be disorienting. I think it’s more likely that the offending party is too close and speaking directly into rather than across the mic and has no idea how it sounds. That’s when a good Elmer would come in handy to explain what is happening and what is causing it in a nonjudgmental way. Preferably we can make such corrections off the air by phone or in-person (I know that’s not always possible).


  3. These are good examples. However, some of them change over time and the geographic area (especially on FM repeaters). The old adage is “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” I think sometimes we can be a bit down the nose with some of this stuff. Yes, we need to help the new guys learn the language, so to speak, but far too often, it is used to belittle someone about something that doesn’t matter all that much. If the new guys hang around, they will catch on soon enough. I try to correct the new operators only in the things that really affect communication or are subject to FCC regulation. I make an effort to tell people that we all had the same issues initially. If we want new people to continue this hobby, we had better learn to treat them the way we would want to be treated (not necessarily how we were treated). Many people who don’t have aggressive personalities will just fade into the either if they are constantly corrected for things they haven’t even had a chance to learn.


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