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We Should Bring Back These Five Old Rules of Telephone Etiquette

Should We Bring Back These 5 Old Rules of Telephone Etiquette?

SCutler / 17 October, 2017

The telephone is an amazing invention – it truly changed the world. But Alexander Graham Bell’s creation ushered in with it a whole litany of social problems.

For example, what should be the first words you utter to the person on the other side of the line? This problem may seem more pertinent when you consider that the word “hello” was not in general use until after the telephone was invented.

To deal with this and other issues, certain rules of telephone etiquette were drawn up. Often formalised in the front of the original telephone directories, today these rules have largely been forgotten.

Should we bring them back?


Say Your Telephone Number When You Answer the Phone

“Double-four-oh-two-oh-three-eight-double-one-double-two-one” – hearing a series of numbers such as this chirpily recited used to be a common occurrence during the early days of telephony. Though it’s not unheard of today, this convention has largely fallen out of fashion. But it served as a great way to identify wrong-number calls.


Cut Someone Off Mid-Sentence

Interrupting someone on the telephone is considered very impolite. Even cold callers expect to receive some level of respect over the telephone. And most of the time they get it (with some notable exceptions). But, in days gone by, it wasn’t considered at all rude to cut someone off mid-sentence. In fact, one phone service even suggested a phrase to use: “I’m sorry, but I have to stop now. Thank you for calling.”



Refuse Calls Before 9AM and After 9PM

Today, many of us are glued to our phones 24/7. Though it’s rare to receive a business call or a non-emergency call before 9am or after 9pm, plenty of us will have made social calls during these hours (especially during the evening). In the telephone’s early days, there was a relatively strict rule forbidding non-emergency calls before 9am and after 9pm.


Ban Profanities

Some early telephone networks would impose a fine of anyone caught swearing on their networks. Indeed, in the United Arab Emirates, this is still the case today. In society in general, swearing is a controversial topic. Some people get incredibly offended when they hear a swear word. Others barely register them. And others again, such as The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker, have made swearing an art form.


Answer With “Ahoy”

Alexander Graham Bell may have invented the telephone. But Thomas Edison gets the credit for coining “hello”. Bell pushed for “ahoy” to be used as a telephone greeting, which derives from the Dutch greeting “hoi” – in fact, he used it for his entire life. However, Edison, whose preferred greeting was “hello”, won the day when the District Telephone Company of New haven, Connecticut, told users to begin their conversations with a “firm and cheery ‘hulloa’”.


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