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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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January 25, 2007


Chris Mitchell

Useful info - but a bad example for London. The area code for London is not (44) (71), and hasn't been for many years now. It's now (44) (20).

Years ago, the dialling code for London within the UK was simply 01. Then it changed to 071 (inner London) and 081 (outer London). A few years ago, this changed to 020 for the whole of London, with 020 7... being inner London, and 020 8... being outer London.


Chris, thanks for this correction. I used an example from the "Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications," published in 2004. I hope someone at Microsoft Press will read your comment.



We use parens to distinguish the "optional" part of the phone number. It's a simple premise and easily applies to international numbers.

If you're dialing from within the (area code), for example, it indicates the part of the number you do not need to dial.

When publishing a toll-free number, we don't use parens as the full number is required for all users.

(1) (415) 123-1234
(415) 123-1234


Jen, your approach makes sense. Thanks for sharing it.



I find it amusing that Microsoft is publishing technical manuals when more often than not I am having to ignore its interpretations of correct spelling and/or grammar!


Hi, Jackie. Brilliant humans write the style manual. Although brilliant humans also design the software, ultimately it's just a software program guessing where your introductory clause ends. That's why we have to use our grammar and spelling checkers as a guide--not as gospel.

Thanks for commenting.


Dee Combs

I don't understand how Microsoft can accept the parentheses when in many areas the entire phone number is required. In my thinking, which can be flawed also, I can't think of a time when parentheses would be appropriate unless what was in the parentheses did not need to be dialed. I'd like to see Microsoft move ahead in this area. I received 4 documents from large organizations today, all using dots between the number. I also see hyphens but almost never see parentheses. When I do, my mind goes to "old-school". As a side note, dots & hypens are much easier to type because you can use your number keypad for the entire number.


As someone whose number keypad just gathers dust, I was glad to be reminded that some people use it. Thanks for commenting, Dee.


From my North America perspective, is there any guideline on using the plus "+" character as the first character in international phone number? I am considering standardizing this in my own database system to represent any number other than one following the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). I was thinking this would be a nice visual cue to more easily distinguish these different types of numbers; the database I inherited has maybe 25% of the int'l numbers in it formatted like this, and I'd like to get them all following the same format. Thanks!

Andy Penney

How do you write a an address in AP style for a London address?

the EcoBuild tradeshow at the ExCel London in London, United Kingdom from March 1 - March 3.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Andy, in AP style the months are abbreviated, so you probably want to use Mar. 1-3. I believe your sentence should use London, England, with a comma after the country name.

If the tradeshow is billed as EcoBuild Tradeshow, capitalize the word "Tradeshow."



Hi Lynn,
Any thoughts on whether you should use hard or soft hyphens in phone numbers? There is great debate in our office with some individuals insisting on hard hyphens in phone numbers.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Murry, thanks for the question. I believe hard hyphens are an excellent choice in telephone numbers.

Here is a loose definition of a hard hyphen: A hard hyphen is one that will not break the word or item at the end of a line. In Microsoft Office, it is called a "nonbreaking hyphen" and can be found under Special Characters.

The reason to use hard hyphens in phone numbers is to ensure that a number will not be broken at the end of a line.

In my writing I don't normally use hard hyphens in phone numbers, but I do check for breaks in numbers at the end of lines. Then I insert a hard hyphen if needed. For people who may not see the final copy (as I always do), using hard hyphens is a good habit.


Diane Lynch

What is the correct way to write phone numbers with extension on resumes? Thank you

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Diane, there are probably many correct ways to include an extenstion. I like this approach:

555-555-5555, Ext. 505

Good luck with your resume.


Duncan Hill

Chris Mitchell is right, except that 020 is the code for the whole of London, and the first digit of the number (e.g. 7) is irrelevant.

To display numbers in international format, the correct format worldwide is as follows: e.g. +1 212 736 5000 or +44 20 7222 1234. A plus sign before the country code... NO brackets, just spaces.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Duncan. Thank you for your good advice. Some style manuals also use hyphens between the various parts of the number.



According to the GPO Style Guide en dashes are used not hyphens, e.g., 1-703-765-6593. This style guide is used for all government correspondences.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Rie, thank you for sharing this information. I will update the blog post to include it.



I found this page through Google after searching for how to properly format an number with an extension. I'm sure many visitors would apprecite if that part was edited in to the original article.

Also, thank you for writing this! Very helpful.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Good idea, Kyle. I will update this blog post next week.



Hi everyone. Searching about the topic, I found this standard that talks about it: UIT-T E.123
It shows how to write the phone number into a "standard compliant" way.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Marcos, thank you for this information. I viewed the English version. The relevant part starts on page 7 of the PDF.

The standard makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing it.



is there +(359)123 123

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Ivan, I am not familiar with that way of writing a telephone number.



please, i need the format acceptable by google mail. i'm kinda stranded online. anyone, pls?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Sorry, Bibi. I don't have that information.


Mike Rauh


I wish the dots or periods in phone numbers would go away. They are hard to see and they don't seperate the numbers very well, especially on a monitor.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Mike, good point. I myself prefer hyphens.


David Chamberlain

Most of the time, I like to use parenthesis and hyphens in phone numbers. Using periods can make the phone number look like a web address, and all hyphens can, at first glance, look a bit like a social security number. "(432) 555-1234" looks like a phone number, and nothing else, rather than "432-555-1234" or "432.555.1334."

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks for your view, David. Your explanation makes perfect sense.


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