Zed, not Zee

A side note to the previous post on using a phonetic alphabet–

When formally identifying yourself or another radio station with the letter Z in the call sign we use Zulu for proper ITU phonetics.

But we don’t always use phonetics for identification.  Once the call signs have been logged and acknowledged properly, we typically identify with call signs spoken normally (no phonetics).

So here is the wrinkle…  If there is a letter Z in any call sign, we should not pronounce “zee” when using non-phonetic identification.  Z is easily confused with C and to a lesser extent, G and P and T and V, especially if there is interference or noise.

To avoid this, simply say “zed” instead of “zee” when not using phonetics.  Zed is how the originators of the English language pronounce that last letter of the alphabet anyway, so let’s give the UK a show of support.

Using Zed solves the confusion and it’s widely known and understood.  You will hear experienced hams say Zed all the time when they’re not using phonetics.  Just remember to say Zulu when phonetics are needed.

It’s Zed, not Zee.  Get into the habit!


One of the first things a new ham needs to learn when they get on the air is the phonetic alphabet.  Because many alphabet letters sound the same over the air it is important to use phonetics when spelling out words or giving your call sign accurately.  This is particularly important when checking into a radio net, which is where many new hams get started.

Proper amateur radio protocol uses the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) phonetic alphabet.  You are likely to hear other phonetic alphabets on the air but should learn the ITU version and use it.  Start learning Continue reading