What is the proper CW calling procedure?

Yesterday, I tweeted:

kb6nu's avatar@kb6nu
I’m no longer going to respond to stations that reply to my CQs with only their callsigns, esp if they send it only once.

What brought this on was a very short QSO I had yesterday on 30m. I called CQ on 10115, sending “CQ” four times and my call three times, and someone replied with just his callsign, as if this were a contest. In contest mode, this is an appropriate reply, but not on 30m on a weekday evening.

I should have know better than to acknowledge the call, but I did, giving him a signal report, my name, and QTH. His reply was a curt, “599 73.” What a waste of time that was! This is not the first time this has happened, and it was equally disappointing then, too. As a result, I’ve decided that I’m just not going to reply to stations that answer my CQs with only their callsigns. If you can’t take the time to at least give me a real signal report, your name, and your QTH, don’t bother answering my CQ.

My tweet prompted several replies about what is the proper operating procedure.¬†In my not so ¬†humble opinion, you should, at the very least, send the other station’s callsign at least once and your callsign at least twice:


This lets the other operator know that you’re calling him, and gives him two chances to get your call right. I’ll go even further to say that you should do this only when band conditions are really good, the ham at the other end seems like a skilled operator, and it’s armchair copy both ways.

When band conditions are marginal or noisy, send the other station’s callsign at least twice, and your callsign two or three times. This is not that hard to do, makes things a lot easier for less-skilled operators, and will help you avoid repeats or miscopied calls.


  1. The QSO was completed tho, right? Even with his minimalist practices? You got his call, that means you got his QTH and name if you look them up. Not the friendliest practice, perhaps, but I applaud efficient operating. We have well established practices for requesting fills when needed. And for all you know, he was applying your principles. He might have judged you to be an excellent operator, from his end perhaps there wasn’t much noise, therefore there was no reason for repetition or redundancy. Of course, you’re free to respond or not to whomever you wish, but in my opinion, you are the one looking rude if you ignore a clear response to your CQ.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      Sorry, but I don’t buy that. The well-established operating practice is to do what I described above. I did look him up on QRZ.Com, and this guy is an experienced operator, and he should have known better.

      When I put out a full CQ, I expect to have more than a “599 73″ type contact. Someone who just throws out his callsign, like this guy did, usually does not. That being the case, I’m choosing to not answer those calls in the first place.

  2. I have to disagree. Why waste your time sending your call again? You know who you are, and you just finished calling CQ. What are the chances he’s calling someone else at the exact same time that you stop calling CQ? Pretty slim. Now, it would be nice for him to send his call 2x or more, but I’ll admit, sometimes I’ll only send my call once when replying to a CQ, and if someone calls me and replies and I don’t get it all at once, I’ll just send a “?” then they usually repeat it as many times as needed. Maybe I’m more tuned to contest mode where we send the minimum needed and wait for the other station to ask for repeats.

    Still, I’d never answer someone calling CQ and not even give them the time of day. If you want to work a contest, then go work a contest. 30m is no place for 599 73 QSOs (unless its DX…)

  3. Elwood Downey, WB0OEW says:

    I do not dispute your choice to do as you wish but I’ll answer anyone. The way I look at it, maybe I want to ragchew, maybe he wants my county, who knows, but whatever, we’re both on the air enjoying the magic of radio together.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      Well, such a quick contact is more annoying than enjoyable to me. Sorry to be such a curmudgeon about it. I think I’ll e-mail the guy and ask him what his motivation for doing this and invite him to reply here.

  4. I’m afraid I’m with Elwood on this one… you are technically correct. But if no one ever calls you back “properly” are you willing to quit using CW?

    It’s probably just a bit of confusion on the part of a noob who has wandered into contests and thinks this is the “right” way to call you back. Is it really such a big deal? Does it precent you from making contact? Will it kill ham radio?


    Be Young. Have fun. Drink Pepsi.

    73, Jeff KE9V

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      This guy is far from a noob. In fact, on his QRZ page, he touts that he is the “second VE2 to complete his DXCC Honor Roll #1.” It doesn’t prevent me from making contacts with hams who know proper operating procedure. It is going to prevent me from making contact with this guy again.

  5. I don’t think it’s improper to send the call once or without the CQing station’s callsign. If it’s a clear frequency and armchair copy, sending one call is probably appropriate. If calling a station that is a 339, their and your call two or three times is probably better. It’s all a matter of reading the conditions and doing what makes sense. I honestly don’t need to hear my call come back when I call CQ. I know my callsign and will assume anyone on the frequency dropping a callsign is answering me.

  6. Mike K8XF says:

    I agree with you. I have seen the same silly thing a few times myself. I have also noticed that in the last few years people clling cq is different. NO more cq cq cq de k8xf k8xf k8xf, or , cq cq de k8xf k8xf, three separate times…I cant tell you how many weird combinations I have heard calling cq?

    Have fun at FD………….

    Mike K8X

  7. I have to agree with Dan on this one. If I were calling CQ test or something similar then I would expect the short call, but when calling CQ in a non-contest mode, you are looking for a conversation, not just making a quick contact. This is all due to the poor operators that are not being elmered, and the internet, where it is too easy to just look up a call and get the information you want. When calling CQ you are looking for a QSO, just not to exchange a signal report.

  8. in 35 out of the last 100 qsos i made all i got was 5NN and a name. I do not reply to 5NN reports anymore. If someone is too lazy to give a correct report-they probably wouldnt have much else of interest to say. whats the point spending large amounts of money on equipment if you havent anything to say?

    • I agree with you 100%, Alan. I honestly wonder why they even bother to get on the air. Fortunately, there are still lots of guys out there who are interesting to talk to. For example, I just had a great QSO with W5APS this evening.

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