Operating Guidelines

By Jonathan Imberi

Poor operating procedure is ham radio's version of original sin. It is a curse that will not go away. Hams refer to these poor operators as "lids". No one wants to be a lid or have a conversation with a lid. 

It is actually easier to be a good operator than to fall prey to sloppy habits. Good operating makes ham radio more fun for everyone. In amateur radio, it is important to enjoy and take pride in your own accomplishments. The saying "it's what you do with what you've got that really counts" is especially true in Amateur Radio. To make up for any or imagined lack of equipment, concentrate on improving your own operating ability. 

Good operating skills can be like making your signal ten times stronger! Hams say it is like adding 10 dB to your signal. 

Rules For A Good Ham Operator 

1. Listen with care. Avoid distractions in your radio room. Make sure your radio is operating on the proper frequency. 

2. Monitor the frequency you wish to use. Call only when a frequency is free. Make sure the station you are calling is available for contact. 

3. Make short calls, with a break to listen. Speak clearly, at a steady, moderate rate. Three short calls are better than one long one. 

4. Use a voice operated switch (VOX) or push-to-talk (PTT) technique and speak near the mike. Watch the modulation indicator. Keep local background noise to a minimum. 

5. Take notes. Avoid missing points for comment. Jot down topics to avoid repeats. 

6. Talk as you would in person. If you need, notes will help avoid mixing up subjects and thoughts. VOX and PTT techniques will help other amateurs from calling you a monologist. 

7. Speak naturally. Make QSO's interesting and avoid exhibitionism. Use proper operating form to promote efficiency in communication and add respect and prestige for your station. 

A phonetic alphabet or special word list is recommended to use in identifying station calls or difficult words as necessary. The list helps to avoid facetious word combinations. This makes it very acceptable to all amateurs. Use of a standard list is recommended by the ARRL. Haphazard selection of words often results in confusion. A degree of uniformity in the use of phonetic words reflects favorably on your individual operation and on the whole amateur service.