Prosigns for Morse code

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In Morse code, prosigns or procedural signals are special Morse code symbols (dot/dash sequences) that do not represent written alpha-numeric or punctuation text characters.[1] Morse code prosign symbols are not generally part of the (written) information bearing characters of the text of a message. Instead, prosigns are special (unwritten) symbols, that have particular functions, such as: indicating changes of transmission communications protocol status, and indicating (or initiating) text or page white space formatting. These special Morse code prosign symbols, although preceding modern teleprinter (teletypewriter) and computer character sets by many decades, play a role in Morse code similar to that of the so-called (normally unprinted) control characters found in modern computer and teleprinter character set codes such as the: Baudot code (a.k.a. Murray code), ITA2, ASCII, UNICODE and EBCDIC codes.

For illustrative purposes, these special (normally unwritten) Morse code prosign symbols may be shown in a special written form by delimiting a related group of alphabetic Morse code characters that when run-together without inter-character spacing (concatenation) create the (normally unwritten) prosign symbol. The special delimitation of these character groups representing prosigns are effected by applying special annotations, such as: an over line as AA, or surrounding angle brackets as <AA>, to the (otherwise normal looking) character group. For example the (normally unwritten) Morse code prosign symbol <BT> (or BT), which indicates the start of a new paragraph, is represented by the dot/dash sequence (dash dot dot dot dash) pronounced verbally as "dahdidididah", which is transmitted as a run-together concatenation of the Morse code symbols for the alphabetic characters B and T and not as separate Morse code characters with normal inter-character spacing between the B and T.

Morse code prosign symbols have been used by telegraphists for well over 125 years, predating modern character set code control characters by many decades. Traditionally Morse code is manually sent (encoded) by operators (known as telegraphists) using hand operated telegraph keys and copied (decoded), either mentally, or by hand or typewriter, as the Morse code signals are received by ear in real time. Long before the advent of modern software and microprocessor based computer applications for encoding and decoding Morse code, the traditional Morse code prosign symbols were transmitted manually using telegraph keys, and duly recognized and acted upon when received by telegraphists. As with modern control characters Morse code prosigns are never explicitly written or printed, either by hand or by typewriter.

Morse Prosigns vs Modern Control Characters[edit]

Unlike modern fixed length symbol teleprinter and computer character set codes, such as the: Baudot code (a.k.a. Murray code), ITA2, ASCII, UNICODE and EBCDIC codes, Morse code uses bandwidth efficient variable length symbols intended to be sent by telegraphists using hand operated mechanical telegraph keys not by typing at teleprinter or computer keyboards. Although created without benefit of the modern information theory interpretations of Claude Shannon, the bandwidth efficiency of Morse code is readily understood today in terms of Shannon's modern source coding or so-called data compression techniques e.g Huffman coding, etc.

The keytops of modern teleprinter and computer keyboard keys are annotated or labeled with single alpha-numeric and punctuation characters plus a few other function keys that, when struck, generate the corresponding fixed length alpha-numeric, punctuation or control characters as dictated by the given character set code. Function keys, which generally represent non-written code symbols, are usually annotated with labels such as: Alt, Ctrl, Enter, Shift, or f1, f2, f3... etc. or simply left unlabeled as is the so-called space bar function key. Striking a key on modern teleprinter and computer keyboards generates a single fixed length alpha-numeric, punctuation or control character and provides no capability to send run-together or concatenated variable length characters as with traditional Morse code prosigns. Many of the built in control characters of the modern character set codes generated by keyboards are unrelated to the traditional variable length Morse code prosigns. Because of the fixed length character code symbols of modern keyboard operated devices, [Morse code] operators (telegraphists) may encounter difficulties when attempting to send traditional Morse code prosigns and may encounter incorrectly formed traditional prosigns sent by keyboard Morse code operators.

An example of the difficulties that may be encountered by telegraphists who choose to use modern keyboards to send Morse code is the use of the key labelled "Enter" or "Newline" found on modern keyboards. Depending upon the application, striking the "Enter" or "Newline" key usually produces a result which is equivalent to the older Carriage return, Line Feed (CR-LF) sequence of actions which typists execute by hand on teleprinter or typewriter keyboards. The common multiple key Carriage return Line Feed (CR-LF) manipulations used with teleprinters and typewriters has the equivalent effect on printed text formatting as the single Morse code new line prosign <AA> sequence (dot dash dot dash) often verbalized as "didahdidah" used by traditional Morse code telegraphists. Unfortunately most Morse code computer applications do not generate the Morse prosign <AA> when the "Enter" or "Newline" key is struck, and most current Morse code computer applications do not respond to the Morse code <AA> prosign by generating a Newline. The same is true for many of the other Morse code prosign symbols such as: the new paragraph prosign <BT> and, the new page or end of message prosign <AR>. Corresponding single keys or actions for these traditional Morse code prosigns are not generally found on modern computer and teleprinter keyboards. Operators who choose to use most keyboard operated Morse code software applications should realize that, for example, entering the character B followed by the character T does not typically generate the traditional Morse code prosign <BT>. As noted in paragraphs explaining the prosigns following the table of Morse code prosigns listed below, computerized Morse code application developers have hijacked a couple of (normally printed) mathematical symbol characters on modern keyboards to represent a couple of the traditional Morse code prosigns.

Because of these teleprinter and computer keyboard Morse code software application limitations and omissions, it is difficult for operators sending Morse code from such keyboard controlled applications to create the traditional (unwritten) variable length Morse code prosigns. Some keyboard operators may work around this difficulty by connecting a standard telegraph key into the keying line along with the computer keyboard application and intervene during keyboard sending by manually using the standard telegraph key to transmit the traditional prosigns. This workaround however defeats the convenience of using a modern keyboard. Of course, none of these difficulties actually prevents software developers from developing Morse code application programs that enable full proper traditional Morse code prosign operations. One method might be utilizing modern computer keyboard function keys labeled: "f1", "f2", etc. to actuate traditional Morse code prosigns under program control. Apparently, because of the small commercial market for such applications, this currently does not seem to be the case. And so, Morse code keyboard operators may find that they are unable to properly send most traditional Morse code prosigns and sometimes may hear improperly formed (non-concatenated) prosigns sent by keyboard operated Morse code operators. Potential Morse code software application customers should heed the ancient Roman warning, caveat emptor when purchasing Morse code software application programs, and determine beforehand if the application handles Morse code prosigns appropriately!

Nevertheless, as those who still enjoy sail boats in the age of power boats, fluent Morse code telegraphists will continue to enjoy sending Morse code and traditional Morse code prosigns using manually operated mechanical telegraph keys or electronic keyers. In order to become fluent telegraphists, aspiring Morse code operators must not only master the standard Morse code alpha-numeric and punctuation symbols but must also master the use of the traditional prosigns as described in the following table and paragraphs. Morse code prosigns are not dead yet.

Morse Prosigns [2][edit]

Morse Code Prosign Table
Prosign Code Meaning Comments Mnemonic
AA ·-·- New Line (space down one line) Typewritten as Carriage Return, Line Feed (CR-LF). "A line"
AR ·-·-· New Page (end of message, space down page) Single-line displays may use printed character “+”. "All Received"
AS ·-··· Wait Respond with: SN, or characters "R" (Roger) or "C" (Confirm). "just A Sec"
BK -···-·- Break Back-to-you. Indicates fast turn over between stations. "BreaK"
BT -···- New Paragraph (space down two lines) Typewritten CR-LF-LF. Single-line displays may use printed "=". "Begin Two"
CL -·-··-·· Closing Station closing. "CLosing"
CT -·-·- Attention Commencing important transmission. Sometimes written as KA. "Copy This"
EEEEEEE ....... Error Sometimes "????" is used, always followed by correct text. "Error"
K -·- Invitation for any station to transmit Lone alphabetic character "K" at the end of a transmission. "oK, go ahead"
KN -·--· Invitation for named station to transmit Go ahead, specific named station. "oK, Named"
NJ -··--- Shift to Wabun code Shift from Morse code to Wabun code Kana characters. "Next Japanese"
SK ···-·- End of contact Sometimes written as VA. "Silent Key"
SN ···-· Understood Often written VE. (Or shift from Wabun code to Morse code). "Sho' 'Nuff"
SOS ···---··· International EMERGENCY distress signal Indicates imminent danger to life or property. (About this sound listen ) "Save Our Souls"

Attention Prosigns: <CT> and <SOS>[edit]

In Morse code the so-called attention prosigns are used to attract the attention of all stations that may be monitoring or listening to a communications channel.

The <CT> prosign is used when a transmitting station wants all monitoring stations to be alert and to listen carefully for an imminent important message or transmission. Upon hearing <CT> receiving stations should be prepared to copy down or record everything that follows. <CT> may be interpreted as, "Copy This".

The <SOS> prosign is used ONLY in EMERGENCY situations to draw immediate attention and to request immediate help either to save lives or to protect the imminent destruction of significant property. SOS may be interpreted in English as "Save Our Souls".

For over one hundred years, the Morse code prosign <SOS> has been used under several Safety of Life at Sea or SOLAS Convention regulations as a world-wide International Morse code distress signal. Traditionally, under pain of criminal offense for misuse, the transmission of <SOS> is only permitted to attract attention when life or property is endangered. In this regard the Morse code <SOS> prosign is used in the same manner as the Mayday distress signal used in voice communications.

White Space Prosigns: <AA>, <BT> and <AR>[edit]

In formal written message procedures the three Morse prosigns <AA>, <BT> and <AR> are used to indicate the presence of, and represented by the receiving operator by creating white space text formatting of the text lines on a: page, text file, or video screen where the message is displayed. The so-called white space being the line spaces on the page delineating either: a new line, a new paragraph or, a new page (or section of a page).

With informal Morse conversations, which are often carried out mentally rather than formally written, prosigns such as <BT> and <AR> are simply used to provide the operators with brief pauses for gathering their thoughts between transmissions.

The prosign <AA> indicates a new line (space down one line). The prosign <BT> indicates a new paragraph (space down two lines). The prosign <AR> indicates a new page or the end of message (space down a page or space down to a new part of a page, or prepare a new ARRL Radiogram blank page).

White space (visual arts) text formatting is indicated to a receiving operator when the transmitting operator sends these (normally unwritten) Morse prosigns at the appropriate places in the text of the message being sent. The traditional use of white space text formatting indicated by these traditional Morse code prosigns allows the creation of highly human legible documents and predates the use of, the somewhat arcane, in-line printed mathematical symbols as used by some microcomputer based single-line display Morse code encoder/decoder products.

Early telegraphists apparently only saw the need for, and thus only created, the three white space <AA>, <BT> and <AR> prosigns. On the other hand, modern computer character set codes and keyboards contain even more Whitespace characters such as the space bar and the Tab key. There is no Morse code equivalent for the so-called space bar which is likely the most widely used white space control character on modern keyboards. Traditional Morse code telegraphists sending with a manually operated telegraph key, create space bar spaces by simply pausing for the appropriate number of dot durations corresponding to the normal Morse code inter-word spacing. There is no Morse code equivalent for a Tab function.

Mathematic Symbols = and + Instead of <BT> and <AR>[edit]

Although prosigns are normally unwritten (except for illustrative purposes) some computer software Morse code encoder/decoder applications transmit and print two of the (unwritten) white space prosigns explicitly using a keyboard and display system by hijacking the normal use of two normally printed mathematical symbols. These mathematical symbols are usually found on the top line of keys on modern keyboards and are: (1) the printed ASCII character set mathematical symbol "=" used in place of the new paragraph prosign <BT> (or BT) and, (2) the printed symbol "+" in place of the new page or end of message prosign <AR> (or AR).

This representation of the (normally unwritten) new paragraph <BT> and new page <AR> prosigns by means of the printed mathematical symbols first appeared as an artifact of electronic microcomputer based Morse code encoders/decoders having only a single-line electronic display capability. See for example the MFJ Enterprises models MFJ-461 and MFJ-462B microprocessor based Morse code reader products. Clearly, normal page oriented white space line space formatting cannot be used with a single-line electronic display since it is impossible to space down the page to create white space lines on a single-line display. The product designers might have chosen some of the so-called function keys to implement <BT> and <AR> but instead apparently chose to use the seldom used explicit mathematical symbols (= and +) in place of the normal Morse code prosigns.

Since traditional white space (visual arts) formatting of pages according to the received (unwritten) prosigns creates more human legible documents than computer based methods that utilize in-line insertion of printed mathematical symbols (=, +), Morse code software application developers should include an option for users to request either, the traditional highly legible white space formatting or, at the user's discretion, the arcane computer oriented in-line printed mathematical (=, +) symbols.

Turn Over Prosigns: <K>, <KN>, <BK>, <SK> and <CL>[edit]

Turning over a communications channel is the change in communications protocol transmission status that occurs when a transmitting station turns over transmitting control of a communications channel to another operator or station.

The traditional Morse code turn over prosign symbol <K> is identical to the alphabetic character symbol for the letter "K" which is interpreted as a prosign when sent alone at the end of a transmission. This is the only prosign symbol that is identical to a normal written text character. Thus, the alphabetic character symbol for the letter "K" (verbalized as "dahdidah") when sent alone at the end of a transmission is taken to be a prosign that indicates a channel turn over change in communications protocol status and literally means "Go ahead anyone" or "Over to anyone".

The Morse prosign <KN> comprised of the run-together or concatenated letters K and N indicates a selective channel turn over or change in communications protocol status meaning "Go ahead only" or "Over to you only" when the sending operator wishes a reply only from the current receiving station and does not wish a reply from other stations.

The fast break turn over prosign <BK> is used within a conversation or contact between two stations as a fast break indication which turns over a communications channel quickly to the specific receiving station without taking the time to transmit the identity of either the sending or receiving station.

The final turn over or end of contact prosign <SK> is usually sent in lieu of the prosign <K> or the prosign <KN> at the end of the last transmission from the transmitting station to indicate the termination or end of a particular contact (conversation) between two stations, thus turning the communications channel over to other users. Often when terminating a contact with <SK> the transmitting station may continue listening on the communications channel for calls from other stations.

The closing station prosign <CL> is sent by operators before finally quitting the communications channel, and turning off their receivers. Thus, for example, when terminating a contact and closing their station, a transmitting station will often end the last transmission with the double prosign sequence <SK> <CL>.

None of these turn over prosigns are written down by receiving operators.

In recent times the traditional Morse code turn over prosigns have been adopted by modern non-Morse teleprinter and computer based communications system users. Even though modern teleprinter (teletypewriter) and computer based character sets (e.g. Baudot code, ITA2, ASCII, UNICODE and EBCDIC, etc.) have their own built in automatic code specific control characters for channel turn over, operators of teleprinter based systems which use these (non-Morse) character codes (e.g. Telex, TTY/TDD, TWX, RTTY, PSK31, etc.) often manually type in character groups using the characters of the original Morse prosign run-together concatenated character groups in order to mimic traditional Morse code prosigns. As examples, the traditional Morse prosign letter "K" is often typed by a user to indicate a general channel turn over. Since one cannot run-together or concatenate characters on a teleprinter keyboard, because the machinery only supports separate fixed length character symbols, users will often type the separate character group "KN" in lieu of the run-together character Morse prosign symbol KN to indicate the selective turn over to a specific station. Similarly users may type the separate character group "SK" in lieu of the Morse run-together prosign symbol SK indicating relinquishment of the channel to other users. Some teleprinter users have taken to typing the character group "GA" (Go Ahead) rather than "K" or "KN". Notably, typing "SK" in lieu of the Morse SK is commonly used by TTY/TDD users. Of course teleprinter equipment will only respond automatically to their own built-in character set control characters and basically ignore hand typed separate alphabetic character groups which users type in to mimic traditional Morse code prosigns. Teleprinter and computer application users should understand that mimicing Morse prosigns in this way will not be recognized and acted on automatically by the teleprinter equipment and will likely only be recognized by the human operators.

Miscellaneous Prosigns: <AS>, <SN> and <NJ>[edit]

The wait prosign <AS> is used by a transmitting station to request that receiving stations wait for further instructions from the transmitting operator. Often the prosign <AS> may be immediately followed by a numeric character such as <AS>1 or <AS>3 to indicate the approximate number of minutes (here, one or three minutes) that the sending operator wishes the receiving operator to wait. The wait prosign is often used by Morse code amateur radio net control operators when acknowledging specific stations checking into a Morse code network. Normally the receiving station being asked to wait will immediately respond to an <AS> request by sending the single understood prosign <SN>.

The understood prosign <SN> is intended to be used by receiving operators to respond to requests from a transmitting operator. For example a transmitting operator may request the receiver to wait for three minutes by sending <AS>3 and the receiving operator would respond immediately with the single prosign <SN>. In practice however many Morse code operators will more commonly acknowledge requests with a single ordinary alphabetic character "R", which is a short form of the voice response "Roger" or "Received" or with the single alphabetic character "C" which is a Morse code short form for "Confirmed" or "yes". (Note that the letter "C" sounds like the Spanish word "si" for "yes".)

Wabun code is a special form of dot/dash symbol code created by the Japanese, which encodes the modern era Japanese Kana or Katakana characters. The two prosigns <SN> and <NJ> (often written as <DO>) are used to signal a communications protocol shift or change from the Japanese Wabun code to Morse code and vice versa. (Note that the Kana characters are a modern form of writing Japanese language and are not the ancient oriental pictographic Kanji characters used in traditional oriental: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese writing.)

The next Japanese prosign <NJ>, when sent by a Morse code operator indicates to the receiving operator that the sending operator will be immediately shifting the communications protocol from International Morse code symbols to Japanese Wabun code Kana symbols and to interpret all the symbols that follow as Wabun code symbols and not Morse code symbols. The symbol <NJ> may thus be interpreted in English as "Next Japanese". (Note that <NJ> may also be written as <DO>.)

The prosign <SN> appears in both Morse code where it means understood and in the Wabun code where it means shift to Morse code. When sent by a Japanese Wabun code operator, <SN> is a prosign symbol in the Japanese Wabun code that indicates to the receiving operator that the sending operator will be immediately shifting the communications protocol from the Japanese Wabun code Kana character symbols to International Morse code encoding and to interpret all the symbols that follow as International Morse code and not the Japanese Wabun code Kana symbols.

Error Prosign: <EEEEEEE>[edit]

A Morse error prosign symbol indicating a previously sent error is comprised of a series of six to eight concatenated dots or run-together alphabetic letter "E" symbols. In practice, this error symbol is never written down by receiving operators. For illustrative or instructive purposes this symbol may be written or shown as six or more run-together "E" letters with overline as EEEEEEEE, or as a series of six or more "E" letters surrounded by angle brackets as <EEEEEEE>. The number of E characters concatenated to indicate an accidental error must be more than five so that it is not taken as any of the written alpha-numeric characters I, S, H, or numeral 5. A symbol comprising a concatenated sequence of six or more dots is never written down by receiving operators instead it is taken as a signal of an upcoming change to the transmitted message (change in communications protocol).

This special error symbol indicates an accidental error in transmission that, once sent, has been almost immediately recognized by the sending operator. When the error prosign is sent it is immediately followed by the corrected information text. When formally writing or typing a message, the receiving operator then deletes (or crosses out) the erroneous text and replaces it with the corrected text.

Other non-prosign techniques are sometimes informally used to indicate such accidental errors in transmission. Some operators indicate errors by sending a few sequential question marks (e.g. ????), a sequence which would not often normally appear in regular written text messages. The sequence of four or more question punctuation marks is then followed by the correct text. Alternatively some operators indicate an accidental sending error by transmitting a few well spaced-out dots, the unusual "broken" rhythm indicating that an error was accidently sent and then followed by the correct text.

Informal Language Independent Conversations[edit]

Rag chewer is a name applied to amateur radio Morse code operators who engage in informal Morse code conversations (known as 'rag chewing') while discussing subjects such as: the weather, their location, signal quality, and their equipment. Meaningful rag-chewing between fluent Morse code operators who speak different native languages is quite possible because of the existence of a common world-wide language or Lingua franca provided by the prosigns for Morse code, the International standard Q code, Z code, RST code and many well known Morse code abbreviations which together serve as the Lingua franca within the world-wide community of amateur radio Morse code operators.

These codes efficiently encode many well known statements and questions from many languages into short simple character groups. The international Q code for instance encodes literally hundreds of full normal language sentences and questions in short three character codes each beginning with the character Q. For example the code word QTH means "My location is". If this code word is followed by a question mark as QTH? it means "What is your location?". Typically very few full words will be spelled out in Morse code conversations. Often vowels are left out to shorten transmissions and turn overs. Other examples, of internationally recognized usages of Morse code abbreviations and well known code numbers from past eras of telegraph technology are the use of the code WX for weather, or the numbers 73 for best regards and 88 for love and kisses.

Using this extensive Morse code Lingua franca that is traditionally widely understood world-wide, surprisingly meaningful informal conversations can be efficiently conducted with quick transmissions even when operators do not speak the same languages. These techniques are similar to, and often much faster than, texting on modern cellphones.

Example of an Informal Conversation[edit]

Sensible and efficient informal Morse code conversations between fluent operators involves more than simply knowing the alpha-numeric and punctuation characters. Fluent operators must at least also know and respond to common Morse code prosign symbols. In addition to Morse code characters and prosign symbols there are also internationally agreed communications protocols or patterns of communication, international Morse code abbreviations, and codes such as the Q code, Z code and RST code to assist with efficient and quick Morse code conversations.

In the following example an informal Morse code conversation between stations with the call signs X1AA and X2BB is depicted.[3] In the following conversational example the mathematical symbol "=" representing the prosign <BT> is shown written in-line as might occur if a single-line display automated software application were encoding and/or decoding the Morse code. The prosign symbol <BT> is actually sent (verbally this prosign is rendered as "dahdidididah") along with the other Morse code information bearing characters but these prosigns are not normally written down by the receiving operator. The receiving operator merely skips down a line or two upon hearing the <BT> prosign to create the appropriate white space.

Often with short informal Morse code conversations as depicted in the following example operators 'copy' mentally in their heads without formally writing or typing anything. In the case of mental copy the presence of the <BT> prosign, indicated by the "=" signs in the example, instead of being used to trigger white space in a written record, are used to simplynprovide the receiving operator with a short mental break to digest, and perhaps to jot down a short note of, the information just sent.


Calling anyone (CQ), this is (DE) X1AA, over, go ahead anyone (K)


Calling X1AA, this is X2BB, back-to-you only. (KN means you are inviting only the named party to reply)


Good afternoon dear old man you are RST 599 here
(Note - RST 599 means... Very readable (5), very strong signal (9), very good tone (9))
I'm located in Timbuktu
The operator is John
How do you copy? Go ahead only X2BB.


Thanks for the fine business report dear old man John. I read you 558.
(RST 558 means - Very readable (5), adequate, low-strength signal (5), good tone (8))
I am in the Himalayas
My name is Yeti. That's all for this transmission (AR), go ahead anyone.
(Note sending K alone as a prosign without the run together N invites other callers to break in).


Okay, thanks (for this) conversation (QSO) dear Yeti
Best regards (73) and hope to see you again. Go ahead anyone.


Roger (R) thank you see you again best regards (73). Signing off.(SK)


Often, a couple of dits typically ends an amateur radio Morse conversation or 'contact'. This traditional Morse code idiom resembles the archaic English "pip pip".

In practice, X1AA and X2BB would be conventional amateur call signs uniquely identifying each of the parties to the contact.

Formal Telegraph Message Relay[edit]

Traffic handlers are Morse code operators who send and receive – or handle — so-called formal recorded text messages for relay and delivery to third parties. Morse code record traffic handlers may be radio amateurs or paid professionals such as ship's radio operators or military radio operators who send or relay radiogram (message)s on behalf of third parties. Since regulations often require that a record of such third party traffic be retained by the sending and relaying stations for a reasonable period, such formal third party messages are often called record traffic. These formal records of a third party traffic radiogram (message) are usually hand written, or typewritten, either on paper or typewritten into a word processing file so that a more or less permanent record of the radiogram (message) is available and kept on file for future reference in case the regulating authorities wish to review the record traffic.

In North America (United States and Canada) amateur radio operators (hams) are permitted to handle such third-party record traffic as a nonprofit public service. Such traffic handling on behalf of third parties by amateurs is actually forbidden by law or regulation in much of the rest of the world outside of the Americas where most message relay service has been reserved for government authorized monopoly licensed corporations or governmental agencies such as local PTT authorities (postal, telegraph and telephone service). The United States national ham radio organization known as the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), and its Canadian counterpart, Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC), publish manuals that standardize traffic handling procedures for such third party record communications. These manuals may be downloaded from links at the ARRL Internet Web site under the subject National Traffic System or NTS. The word Relay in the name of the ARRL is a relic of the original organizational purpose (third party message relay) of the ARRL.

When record traffic handlers receive a formal message traffic radiogram (message) by Morse code they do not write or type prosigns, instead they take the page and text formatting or transmission communications protocol action indicated by the prosigns to format the recorded message on the page, text file, or video screen. For example when hearing the prosign CT ("Copy This") the operator, who is merely listening without copying, will begin copying down all that comes afterwards, immediately expecting a text message header to follow. When hearing BT ("Begin Two lines") within a message, the traffic handler creates white space by starting a new paragraph on the page (e.g. spaces down two lines). When hearing the prosign AA within a message, the traffic handler spaces down one line on the page (i.e., starts a new line for each line of a street address or postal address). Upon hearing the prosign AR the operator stops writing down or recording the message text but continues listening while preparing a new page (or a new message blank from a pad of ARRL Radiogram blanks) or just spaces down to a new part of the page for further copy of a subsequent message.

An example of a typical record traffic message, sent in the ARRL Radiogram format, first as heard by the operator, as illustrated in the following part A paragraph, including all prosigns and record text and secondly in the following part B paragraph the message as actually recorded on paper or electronic text file, without explicitly written prosigns, illustrating the appropriate white space (visual arts) created by the receiving operator in response to the white space prosigns sent by the transmitting operator.

Part A: --- Message as actually transmitted, including prosigns indicated by the characters between angle brackets. ---


Part B: --- Message as recorded on paper with white space text formatting in accordance with the received prosigns. ---

NR 2 R HXE VE9ZK 10 OTTAWA 1800 12-23-14



INDIA, FL 32900



The two layouts of the same message exhibited in the preceding Part A and Part B paragraphs illustrate how receiving traffic handlers record the text message on the page, text file, or electronic display, without explicitly writing down the prosign symbols contained in the audible Morse code signal as actually received in real time.

By comparing the two message layouts illustrated under the preceding parts A and B, we note that the prosigns <CT> and <AR> in the part A message indicate changes in transmission protocol status and so they are not explicitly written or recorded by the operator in the part B message layout. The prosign <CT> warns the operator to be alert and pay attention and may be interpreted as "Copy This" alerting the operator to begin writing or recording a new page of message text. The prosign <AR> means "End of Message" or "New Page", and alerts the operator to stop writing or recording text and to prepare a new page or a new place on the page (white space) for the next message. The other prosigns in the part A are translated into page formatting actions in the recorded part B layout as follows. The prosign <AA> is translated into white space page formatting by creating a new line. i.e. spacing down one line each time the prosign <AA> is encountered. The prosign <BT> is translated into white space formatting by creating a new paragraph. i.e. spacing down two lines each time the prosign <BT> is encountered.

Note the traditional ARRL Radiogram use of an "X" character in the formal message in parts A and B to indicate a so-called full stop which is equivalent to the period punctuation mark. Traditionally in Morse traffic handling standard punctuation characters such as commas, periods and question marks are not used. Sometimes to ensure accuracy under noisy communications conditions the full stop may be sent as the spelled out word STOP rather than the letter "X". It is also traditional in Morse code record traffic to spell out the word QUERY rather than to send the punctuation mark symbol "?". Further details of traditional Morse code record traffic ARRL Radiogram handling procedures and practices may be found in ARRL National Traffic System (NTS) documentation available in print or on line from the American Radio Relay League known by the well known acronym ARRL.

Dotty and Dashy Code Not Prosigns[edit]

Apparently an obscure easily modified version of Morse code a so-called "Dotty and Dashy" code, was briefly pressed into service during World War I, to confuse enemy eavesdroppers by a simple obfuscation similar to children's use of the so-called Pig Latin technique used for obfuscating English speech. This simple obfuscation was of course replaced by more secure encryption techniques utilizing encryption procedures and equipment and the transmission of so-called encrypted code groups using standard Morse code. With "Dotty and Dashy" code one adds a dot or a dash at the end of each (standard) Morse symbol to create a new (obfuscated) Dotty or Dashy symbol a few of which are coincidently the same as some of the standard Morse code prosigns as defined in this article. Apparently some authors consider these (Pig Latin like) symbol variants to be a special case of Morse code prosign symbols. Since the extra dot and dash were used solely to provide an obfuscated representation of normal printed or written alpha-numeric and punctuation character symbols and not as unwritten control characters to indicate transmission protocol status changes or page formatting, these non-standard Dotty and Dashy symbols are actually a code system different from Morse code and are not considered Morse code prosigns as defined in this article.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ARRL Inc. (8 October 2012). ARRL Operating Manual (10 ed.). ARRL. ISBN 978-0872595965. 
  2. ^ ARRL Inc. (8 October 2012). ARRL Operating Manual (10 ed.). ARRL. ISBN 978-0872595965. 
  3. ^ Field, Don (2010). The Amateur Radio Operating Manual. Potters Bar: RSGB. p. 92. ISBN 1-905086-00-8.