Skip to Content

Telephone Etiquette

When you answer a telephone, you can say “hello”, but the best thing is to clearly say your name. This way, if someone is trying to reach you, they know they have reached you and there will be no confusion. When you call someone else, it is also polite to give your name right away: “This is so and so. May I speak to so and so?” It is not polite to call someone and immediately ask “Who is this?”

Speak Up. Remember that speech over the telephone is often unclear. You might hear the other person perfectly and they might not be able to hear you very well. Speak and leave messages very clearly and slowly. If you don’t understand something you hear, politely ask the person to repeat it. Use the words “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”

Time Zones. Remember that the United States covers four time zones, more if you include Alaska and Hawaii. Consider what time it might be at the location you are calling before making the call. If you don’t know where you are calling, try to avoid late night calls if you are on the West Coast or early morning calls if you are on the East Coast.

Leave Clear Messages. If you leave a message on an answering machine, don’t take too long but speak slowly and clearly. Leave the basic information–your name, your telephone number and the time you called–but don’t go into too much detail if you feel the person will call you back. You can talk about it in detail when they do. In many cases, when you expect to get a person’s machine, you can compose an effective message before you even dial the number. It’s effective and it’s polite.

Next Section:Pay-Per-Minute Calls

Public Services I: Chapter Home

Life in the USA Home Page.