Varying Speed When Sending Your Call Sign
Varying Speed When Sending Your Call Sign avatar

I still receive emails from Dick, KB1H, about the goings-on in his contest group, despite not having operated at his station for many years. One of the things they have had difficulties with is other stations miscopying their call sign (such as “K6JH”).  In trying to make it easier to copy, it was suggested that they vary the speed and spacing at which individual characters in their call are sent. This may be obvious to some of you but I thought I would mention it. I know other stations do this, as I have heard them during contests. 

By breaking  up a call into more easily discernible parts, you should increase intelligibility and therefore decrease fills and NILs (Not-In-Log) . For example I know on CW, Matt, WE1H gets his call miscopied as “VE1H” quite a bit.  Unlike many character errors (as in confusing a “B” and a “6” and a “1” and a “J” as in KB1H’s case), Matt’s problem obviously doesn’t arise from any similarity between the “W” and the “V” but due to the uniqueness of his prefix’s similarity to the “VE” prefix. In other words, operators may be copying his “W” correctly but then mentally altering the prefix once they hear the “E” to make it fit with a much more prevalent (and therefore probable) “VE” prefix. He might benefit from separating the “W” from the rest of his call by either sending it at a slightly slower speed (~2-4 WPM) than the rest, and/or by slightly increasing the spacing between the “W” and the “E” to make it stand out more. He may already be doing this, but I thought it would make a good example. Maybe he has some input he can give.

I even have to do this on SSB. Many people get confused by the “NG” and the “1G”, and try to make sense out of it by concocting  call signs like “November One Golf Something…” or “November Golf Golf”. This happens even in good or excellent conditions, so I know it’s a recognition issue. So what I do is say my call sign like this: “November Golf <slight pause> ONE Golf”, making sure I emphasize the “ONE” after the pause. I have found that it really helps others understand my call better. It not only separates my call into two distinct phrases but by emphasizing the “ONE” and placing it with the suffix I think it makes the second “Golf” easier to understand. Of course on CW you can’t emphasize a character in the same way, but by altering speed or spacing you can make a character or groups of characters stand out more, producing the same effect and making it easier to copy correctly.

During the CW Sweepstakes I used this method to help with my exchange. I don’t think Writelog provides a way to use variable sending speed within a stored message, so what I did was simply add spaces between parts of the exchange to make them stand out. I could control the overall sending speed, which I did according to receiving operator or conditions, but I think the variable spacing also helped, even at higher speeds. I didn’t get asked for a lot of fills, but I also have no frame of reference since this was my first CW SS. Perhaps my LCR (Log Checking Report) will shed light on my success or lack of it.

It”s one thing to hear someone copy your call incorrectly during the QSO, but it’s another to see how they actually logged it. Even if you correct them and they repeat it back correctly you still don’t know what their brain (or hands) did to your call. The UBN (Unique, Bad, NIL) report and LCR are invaluable tools in post-contest assessment for determining if this is happening to you, and the effects of making your call and exchange as easy as possible to copy should be reflected in those reports. Has anyone else adopted this method?

9 comments on “Varying Speed When Sending Your Call Sign
Varying Speed When Sending Your Call Sign avatar

  1. Hi Pat:

    I’m no WriteLog expert, but I can’t imagine that there is not a way to speed up/slow down the CW when sending the macros, e.g., >>> speeds up and <<< slows down (or the other way around). That is the way it is done in N1MM. There MUST be a way to do that in WriteLog. 73, Ken K3IU

  2. Me again…

    Open Write Log. Click on Help/Help Topics; select the Index tab and scroll down to “CW and RTTY and Voice Memory Setup.” It tells you in there how to temporarily change CW speed during the transmission of CW messages.

    73, KenK3IU

  3. Well whaddya know. As many times as I’ve referred to that section on how to set up WL for CW/RTTY messages, I never scrolled all the way to the bottom and I guess I just convinced myself that since I never saw a way to change speed it must not be there.

    That’ll learn me.

    Pat, NG1G

  4. Hey Pat, nice article, but who is that mystery man pictured to the left of your call in your reply comment?

    Ed W1PN

  5. That’s my Portrait of the Ham as a Middle-Aged Man. I changed it to something more contemporary but less revealing.

    Pat, NG1G

  6. You have made some very good points, Pat. In my experience (I use TRLog) I have found that with the usual spacing provided by the program the double XX sometimes causes confusion. So, e.g. in the SS exchange I always insert a 1/2 space ( done with a ^) between the Xx and I also put one between the CK digits and the R and I for section….effectively slowing donw my already slower than average speed you hear in the contest….which BTW I never sent faster than 24 or 25 wpm which sounds slow comared to everybody else. The higher up in the band I went I went to the slower speed of 24. Sometimes I have sent as slow as 22 or 23 in contests…espeically if I am trying to attract the guy who is discouraged by the high speeds and doesn’t make many Qs. He’ll come along and find me and sez to himself: Hey here’s someone sending at a speed I can handle.
    SS Phone this weekend, gang. GL!!! — John, W1XX

  7. I think it’s great that you send at a speed that attracts the ops who can’t copy 40 WPM, John. I’m sure we’ve all heard those who refuse to do that, even when asked.

    I plan on putting in some time during SS Phone – it looks like there won’t be too many members on, so I hope to work you for RI. GL!

    Pat, NG1G

  8. Great article Pat. I am with you as far as altering the speed / spacing for intelligibility. Since I am often mistaken for a VE, as a general rule, I add a very small space between the W and the E in hopes of mentally differentiating the “W” from a “V”. Empirically speaking, I don’t know if it helps, but it makes me feel better.

    IMHO, operators also should use speed strategically as an advantage during a contest (aside from the obvious of sending with the speed you or your audience can copy). If everyone else in the pileup is sending at 40 WPM, I find that sending slower helps differentiate my signal, kind of like sending a little off frequency – something different to make your signal stand out. I am also more apt to pick out a slower speed when I am running and the pile is big and fast. Conversely, I’ll send faster if my competition is sending slowly. Again, empirically questionable… but I like it.

    Anyway, GL in the SS this weekend all! I will likely only be on long enough to make a few QSO’s for states I need. SSB is torture.


    Matt, WE1H

  9. Years ago I realized that I needed to “isolate” the S in KS1J. Writelog has all the capability to do this so now my function keys generally send K^S^1J. My UBN results have improved (no scientific analysis available but I am pretty sure). One thing I have never tried is to alter the weighting of the characters. Probably because the calls I have heard with really tweaked up weighting have sounded pretty choppy and terrible. However, depending on the call that might also be an option.

    Jim KS1J

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