Telephoning terms and etiquette you should know

Telephone conversation is a daily activity, but a call is not all about how much is communicated, but also how well.

Take a look at these conversations:

1. A: Hello.

B: Who is this?

A: I called earlier…

B: Who are you?

A: OK, I’m Kennedy.

B: Do you have a last name like most people?

A: Yes.

B: So…?


2. A: Hello.

B: Hello, good morning.

A: Could I speak to Kelvin, please.

B: Yes, speaking.


3.  A: Hello.

B: Hello, is that Mr Adekunle?

A: Yes. May I ask who’s calling?


4. A: Good morning. This is Kofi Dennis.

Could I speak to the Sales Manager, please?

B: I’m afraid he’s on another call, sir. Shall I ask him to call you back?

A: That won’t be necessary, I’ll leave a message.


You would agree with me that ‘1’ above is an embarrassing situation, while the succeeding ones are those we’d love to have every day. A phone conversation is a two-way situation and what is passed across is as important as how it is passed. It won’t cost anyone anything to be polite, so the following are few of the polite expressions we can adopt:

* Could you repeat that, please?

* Could you hold on, please?

* Would you mind spelling that for me?

* Can you hold on for a minute, please?

* I’d definitely tell him about it. Thanks for calling.

* We’d get back to you soon.

* I’m afraid the line is quite bad.

* I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong number

* I’m sorry, there is nobody here by that name.

* Thanks for calling. Have a nice day.


Now, let’s look at some of the terms we use in telephoning:

* You can call,  phone or ring someone (British English), but call is the most common word in American English, though phone is also used.

* Call or phone call (more formal) are used in both British and American English. You can also use phone up.


  1. Are you expecting any phone calls?
  2. He’ll definitely give you a call to confirm this.
  3. I was phoning up to tell you about the party.

*When you phone in, you make a call to a place where you work. You can also phone something in to give information.


  1. He’s so lazy he phoned in sick three times last week.
  2. I had intended to phone the figures in before my boss called.

* Phone-in (call-in in American English) is a radio or television programme in which people call to ask questions or make comments on a particular subject.

* You can dial a number, do business by phone, pick up the phone, put the phone down, leave the phone off the hook if you don’t want to be disturbed, answer the phone, call back, hang up, etc.

* The beeping sound that tells you the other person is on the phone with someone else is the engaged tone (British) or busy signal (American).

* Dialling tone (British) or dial tone (American) is the continuous sound a phone makes when you pick it up so you can dial the number you want.

*Ringer is the sound piece that tells a person a call is coming through.

In summary, politeness and clarity are paramount in telephone conversations. Don’t forget can, could, may and would are used for politeness. Speak slowly and audibly, and make sure you understand the person at the end of the line before you respond.

Let the calls begin!





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