Although the methods have changed over the years, the only way to start a call from a phone is to dial a phone number. In fact, people are so used to placing and receiving calls by now that everybody knows how phone numbers are formatted. Right?
Actually, phone numbers can be written in many ways, but if it’s not in the right format you may end up dialing a complete stranger – and nobody wants that.
So, it’s time to clarify things once and for all and look behind the numbers to see which phone number format is the best to use.
The Importance of Proper Phone Numbers
There are many reasons why proper formatting is important, with one key reason being that if the phone number appears without being broken down into smaller segments then it becomes hard to read. Yet this isn’t just an issue for users – who could misinterpret a poorly formatted phone number as a natural number, but also for smartphones that are constantly searching for phone numbers in plain text to turn them into special one-click dial links.
But even if it’s stated from the outset that the sequence of text is indeed a phone number, it could still lead to misdials. Since many countries use the same number of digits to form phone numbers, there is a chance that foreign callers placing a call to your displayed number will could inadvertently end up calling someone in their own country instead.
Then there is something that is closely related to an issue with passwords that not many people think of: memorability. However, whereas passwords are become hard to remember due to the intentional complexity, phone numbers could cause trouble with their length – especially if it’s close to the maximum of 15 digits. But once those digits are organized into a set of natural patterns of numbers, the brain has a better chance of remembering them.
Clever Help From a Smart Friend
We have already mentioned that smartphones are capable of detecting phone numbers in text provided that the number is written in a recognizable format. But this is not the only way that smartphones can help us; the moment a phone number is entered into the device’s dial pad, the number is formatted to appear as three- or four-digit segments. Additionally, smartphones automatically style the phone number in the format that is most common in the country of which the number about to be called belongs.
This is all very nice, but when it comes to desk phones or desktop browsers there is no similar function for detecting phone numbers. Simply put, avoiding properly displaying phone numbers might be enough for smartphones, but you can’t hide from it forever. Thankfully, though, number formatting isn’t that complicated – and in many cases it’s also pretty logical.
Proper Phone Number Formatting Around the World
USA and Canada
Since the U.S. and Canada both use the North American Numbering Plan, the commonly accepted formatting of phone numbers is (NPA) NXX-XXXX, NPA-NXX-XXXX or 1-NPA-NXX-XXXX, where ‘NPA’ is the area code, ‘NXX’ is the central office code and ‘XXXX’ is the remaining subscriber number personal to each phone number. The only exception to this rule is Québec, where the correct formatting is always 1 NPA NXX-XXXX.
The only things consistent in UK phone numbers are that they either start with 0 or +44 (UK international code) and that if it is a mobile number then the following digit is 7. Aside from that, phone numbers are between nine or eleven digits long, comprising of an area code – 2-5 digits (including the initial 0) – and a remaining subscriber number the length of which is 4-8 digits. In practice a UK phone number can be written as
(area code) subscriber number or – if it’s a mobile, VoIP, or UK-wide number – as
prefix subscriber number.
The Australian phone number formatting is rather simple: it’s (0A) XXXX XXXX for landline numbers and 04xx XXX XXX for mobile phone numbers. The international code that replaces the initial zero is +61 and is followed by a space.
France’s phone number formatting is as logical as that of the U.S. The country uses the 0A XX XX XX XX or +33 A XX XX XX XX format, where A is for local numbers – 1 to 5 – and for mobile numbers using the digits 6 or 7.
Chinese landline phone numbers are formatted as (0YYY) XXXX XXXX, where the 0YYY represents the area code. while mobile numbers appear in the 1WX XXXX XXXX format, where WX marks the service provider. The international dialing code is +86 and is attached to the front of the number (and replaces the 0 of the landline area code).
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