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This is a VERY basic question (new ham) but as I listen on the calling frequency I'm not clear about protocol for announcing call signs.

If someone announces "ABC123 listening" they are waiting for someone to respond. Then when someone responds, do they say the other callsign first, and then their own call sign:

"ABC123 this is ZYX987"

or the other way around "ZYX987 ABC123"? I think I've heard both on 146.520 (But I need practice keeping track of callsigns).

And just to round out the question, at the end of the conversation I've heard various ways of ending like "ABC123 clear", "ABC123", and more. Is there a right way to end?

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  • $\begingroup$ The ABC123 Listening tends to be used on VHF and UHF repeaters or sometimes simplex such as 146.520. on HF and other simplex frequencies the more common is CQ CQ CQ ABC123 saying that ABC123 is calling any station. The three repetitions of CQ does vary with some only saying once or twice. By repeating CQ there is a better chance of someone hearing it over noise if the signal is faint. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Sep 19 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ The way you call someone may differ from country to country. Some require that you start and end your transmission with your callsign. Others just require that you end with your callsign. $\endgroup$ Sep 20 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ If you substitute names for callsigns, it makes far more sense to put your call last. For example "Hey Bob! It's John [calling]!" It's just a natural way to start a conversation. $\endgroup$
    – Duston
    Sep 20 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ When I was in Grade 2, I heard my 1st call sign over the TV. XJG22. RCMP radio. Then my Dad would joke. We have an accident at Spruce & Goose. Over $\endgroup$ Sep 20 at 22:31

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To start a conversation with someone, you could say TheirCall this is MyCall or alternately, MyCall calling TheirCall but the former is more common and slightly more correct.

On HF and weak signal modes, you might say CQ CQ CQ YourCall meaning calling anyone... CQ is repeated several times to give people scanning a chance to catch your transmission, or to give someone time to fine tune the frequency to get you solid, or perhaps turn their directional antenna towards you. By repeating it, you give them time to tune you in before you give your call sign. Otherwise they might get part of your call sign or miss your transmission completely.

Legally, according to FCC, there is no need to begin a conversation with a call sign at all, but this is common on HF frequencies so that the parties involved can know who they are talking to. On VHF where both parties are likely local and can recognize each other by voice, this is frequently still done out of habit, but isn't required and isn't always done.

According to FCC rules, the only "right" way to end a conversation must include your call sign. Anything additional is politeness and informal protocol.

You can just drop your call sign and be done, which makes it legal. But if you want the other person to be clear of your intent, there's a number of common words and phrases you might add to that.

  • Clear indicates that you will be clear of the frequency, probably about to turn your radio off.
  • SK is frequently used in morse code similar to clear. This is a Prosign for "silent key" meaning you will stop using the key, you're done.
  • QSY means you will move to another frequency, which you likely either mentioned before or will mention now, assuming you have a target rather than just wandering across the band.
  • Monitoring or listening indicates you're done in the conversation, but will keep the radio on in the current frequency -- typically used when the other party you were talking to will clear but you will stick around. This might also be used when you put out a call and nobody responded, and you're done calling, but will continue listening. This is perhaps in the vain hope that someone was listening in the background but didn't want to interrupt, but might want to chime in now.
  • Clear on your final is used when both parties are done, but you're going to stick around long enough to hear the other person say their final words and clear.

These are all conventions. None are required,

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There is little in the FCC regulations about format. The common format is "other callsign" this is "your callsign". So to use your example:

"ABC123 this is ZYX987"

This format used to be required. Now, the only requirement is to send your own callsign, but this format remains commonly used.

Exception: International third party traffic requires also transmitting the receiving stations callsign.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. What about at the end of the conversation. Does "ZYX987 clear" mean you are waiting for another person to take to (or just you are done). $\endgroup$
    – TSG
    Sep 19 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Clear" means you are done with your current conversation and do not expect a response. You may be available for calls from other stations. Ref: "The Radio Amateur's Operating Manual", ARRL. $\endgroup$
    – WA9ZZZ
    Sep 20 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, either I'd never learned or had long forgotten your exception here, but you're right! From §97.115(d) — "At the end of an exchange of international third party communications, the station must also transmit in the station identification procedure the call sign of the station with which a third party message was exchanged." $\endgroup$ Sep 20 at 18:34

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