Brady, Michael writes:
> Joshua Hane asked about US/Can phone numbers of this configuration:
> (999) 999.9999 and 999.999.9999
> and asked:
> "What do you think? And, what are the other alternatives that people have
> seen? I've always felt that the former connoted the idea that the area
> code (first three digits) was optional, depending on whether your call
> was local or long-distance.
> On the other hand, the latter example has always been much cleaner,
> simpler, and somehow seemed more sophisticated to me..."
> My preference is strongly against this form, which I have seen here and
> elsewhere: 999/999-9999.
Shucks! That's my favourite hybrid ;-) For me, the slash means `area
code' and the hyphen means `local 7-digit template for North America'.
I confess that I appropriated the slash after living in Germany for a
However, the initial question was prefaced by asking about US/Canada
phone numbers ... so my hybrid should probably go ... ;-(
> I am a bit tired of (999) 999-9999 and annoyed by 999-999-9999.
> I like the 'stylish' 999.999.9999 and I slightly prefer 999 999 9999,
> with en spaces, which equal the width of the figures, in both breaks.
On the other hand ... I believe periods (in lieu of spaces, another
presentation option) are often used in France for phone numbers, and
often, to simply separate the preferred 2-digit presentation of
numbers: xx.yy.zz (a local number -- I don't remember how a
long-distance number would be shown) ... so periods could be viewed as
just another hybrid ... ;-)
It's quite interesting how presentation varies from place to place. I
think in North America, where all our numbers are of the same
template, we aren't exposed as often to other formats, which are held
just as dearly as our own. Although now, via signature blocks on
e-mail, those of us in this forum are seeing a lot of different
presentations, which often give us ideas ... ;-)
> Well, I tried that last option (spaces only) here and it ran afoul of the
> entrenched habits of people who saw (literally, saw, that is, perceived)
> phone numbers as being composed of parens and a hyphen.
Well ... I think phone numbers are part of our subconscious
self-image. Very close to language use itself, in some ways, in that
we are quite certain we do know our language well, how to use it,
spell it, pronounce it. We learn both at a very young age -- and it's
made quite clear how they are to be presented, even pronounced (the
pause there, between the 3-digit exchange and the 4-digit number,
marked by the hyphen). We rhyme them off in this way, following the
pattern first set when the home phone number is learned by rote. And
this `received knowledge' just `is'.
> I was surprised--and not a little chagrined--because I proposed this very
> mild "new look" in a magazine insert card as part of a sales piece, and
> not in more "traditional" copy. The piece was set in Officina with a very
> unstuffy, noninstitutional look, a breath of fresh air for what we
> usually do. But phone numbers are, by god, done a certain way!
> Go figure.
> Michael Brady
> [log in to unmask]
Someone posted a short note saying this list was about typography not
phone numbers ...
But, for anyone who has to typeset phone numbers in a membership
directory, or some other collection of information where names and
numbers go outside a national border -- it's an awful problem. Because
phone number presentation seems to be so very close to our sense of
being educated, knowledgeable members of our particular society -- to
change something so basic in our knowledge base (our `sense of self',
as it were) seems tantamount to sacrilege. On the order of changing
lyrics to a national anthem ... (but I digress ... ;-) ).
So, what to do when producing said directory? One wants to respect
members' preferences ... one wants to present a uniform, consistent
document ... one wants to be accurate, while avoiding an appearance of
inconsistency, of randomness, of a lack of `style' ... which seems to
me to fall squarely into the middle of the typographer's lap.
Using periods to delimit all number groupings _does_ seem a nice quiet
way to signal such groupings. Grouping seems to be something that not
only provides instant recognition of a complete number -- for us in N
Amer, the template is xxx-yyyy -- but also delimits local from
long-distance dialing, and perhaps also part of that is that one has
to ... or had to ... actually pause in the dialing of a long-distance
.. then again, this discussion may be moot -- surely phone number
presentation has already been subjected to some ISO committee or other
by now ... ;-)
But still ... an interesting little knot if you have to deal with it
in a publication of some sort., so perhaps not quite as trivial as it
may at first seem ...
Enough musings for a Friday morning ... should be doing some of that
typesetting stuff instead ;-)