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  #1  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:27 AM
El Famous Burrito El Famous Burrito is offline
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Proper way to format a US phone number for an international business card? (Need answer fast)

Every so often I rue being an unsophisticated American. This is one of those times.

I have been tasked with creating a one-off business card design for an (American) colleague who will be visiting a French-speaking African nation. My question: what is the proper way to format his US-based telephone number for international distribution?

Note: I am not asking any questions on how to dial a phone number. This is a question of visual presentation. That is, what is the proper format, spacing, and punctuation to use -- including proper usage of the plus sign, parentheses, hyphens, and spaces?

Online searches turn up plenty of help on how to dial internationally, but I'm finding it difficult to get a solid answer on the proper protocols of including the country code and how, precisely, to most helpfully group and space the digits. My best guess, before being blessed with the wisdom of the Dope, would be: +1 (202) 867-5309. Now set me straight!
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  #2  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:35 AM
sandra_nz sandra_nz is offline
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That's certainly how I format US numbers.
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  #3  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:36 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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I think you need the US (or Canada) code in there, so for the US it would be +1 01 212 555-2345. I'm not sure what Canada's international country code is, or other outlying points like Puerto Rico that are in the US/Canada system.
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  #4  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:36 AM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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My suggestion is to find a company which is big enough to have international customers, but small enough that their only (or main) customer service department is in the USA. Then go to their website, to their "Contact Us" page, and look at the phone number.

The tricky part is finding a company that does not have European or African phone numbers. Good luck!
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  #5  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:36 AM
Monty Monty is offline
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+1-202-555-1234

+ is to indicate that the dialer must access international direct dialing. As that number varies by country, the convention is to use the plus symbol.

1 is to indicate calling the United States.

202 is the area code. The US, along with a handful of other countries, does not have its telephone area codes beginning with 0. If it did, they would, of course, drop the leading zero anyway. This will not present a problem.

555-1234 is the phone number.
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  #6  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:36 AM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
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That's how I've always seen it written. I don't think there's any easier way to write it but I'm not really up on the 'international business card' etiquette so don't quote me on that!
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  #7  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:37 AM
kunilou kunilou is online now
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I beleive the international style is to use periods to separate, giving

+1.202.867.5309

That's something you can hold on to.
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  #8  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:41 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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I've been working in international development for 15 years and either +1.202.867.5309 or +1 202-555-1234 is correct.
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  #9  
Old 08-07-2012, 10:57 AM
El Famous Burrito El Famous Burrito is offline
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What about the pithiest way to indicate "cellular telephone"?

Thank you, all, for your quick responses. It's seems clear that parentheses typically are not part of the presentation, then. I think I'll go with:

+1 202-867-5309

That would be unambiguous to any recipient, international or domestic, I'd think.

OK, now a follow-up. For French-speaking recipients, what is the pithiest traditional way to label "cellular telephone" on the business card? For example, if this card were for distribution in America, I would be comfortable using the labels "Cell" or "Mobile." (I don't want to just use a single letter, such as "C" or "M," as one sometimes finds here in the States.)

Can I get away with using the label "Móvil"? Is that standard usage in the French-speaking business world?

Thanks again!
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  #10  
Old 08-07-2012, 11:38 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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No, in French it's Mobile. Móvil is (European) Spanish; many Latin American dialects prefer Celular. But unless you're making a fully-French version of the card (mine is ES on one side, EN on the other), just leave it as Cell.

Last edited by Nava; 08-07-2012 at 11:40 AM..
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  #11  
Old 08-07-2012, 11:47 AM
clairobscur clairobscur is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
No, in French it's [I]Mobile[/I.
Just in case there would be a doubt, I confirm.
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  #12  
Old 08-07-2012, 11:49 AM
El Famous Burrito El Famous Burrito is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
No, in French it's Mobile. Móvil is (European) Spanish; many Latin American dialects prefer Celular. But unless you're making a fully-French version of the card (mine is ES on one side, EN on the other), just leave it as Cell.
Got it, thanks! I realized soon after I posted -- but after the edit window closed -- that I indeed read the wrong line in the international dictionary. I will be making a fully-French version of the card, single-sided. Any English speakers encountered on the trip will be given my colleague's normal American business card. As such, I think I'll go with "Mobile." (And yes, I know that the regular American business card will lack the "+1" on the phone number... that's a battle I fought and lost.)

This exercise is more difficult that it might seem at first due to colloquialisms. You never know when a literally translated word or phrase will end up as gibberish in another language. I appreciate the guidance.
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  #13  
Old 08-07-2012, 11:57 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
I beleive the international style is to use periods to separate, giving

+1.202.867.5309

That's something you can hold on to.
International Number Format uses either spaces or no punctuation at all other than +. Spaces correspond to the local convention if used. For example, the International Telecommunication Union's (Swiss) phone number is +41 32 327 55 11. A US number would be formatted as +1 555 555 5555 or +15555555555, for example.
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  #14  
Old 08-07-2012, 12:15 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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The last one would be very confusing, though, since it doesn't separate clearly the optional part. It assumes that the reader already knows the US prefix is 1 and will be able to remember to take it off if calling from within the US.

My own card and any autosigs are formatted (+34) 699 9xx xxx, which follows Spanish ortographic conventions, because IME that way it's both less confusing to have those 3 9s together and clear which is the optional part.
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  #15  
Old 08-07-2012, 12:44 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
I think you need the US (or Canada) code in there, so for the US it would be +1 01 212 555-2345.
You seem to have an extra "01" in there. The international code for the US (and Canada and other countries in the North American Numbering Plan is "1". So you just dial the international access code (represented by "+", which in most but by no means all countries is "00") then 1, then the number.

I wouldn't use parentheses for the international format. In the OP's example, I'd give it as +1 202 867 5309. Parentheses imply an optional part of the number, which isn't relevant in this case.

However, for my UK number, I could include parentheses, because UK area codes start with a zero which you omit when calling from overseas. So my number as called from the UK might be 020 7012 3456, but that might be written +44 (0)20 7012 3456. However people who don't know how international numbers work might find that confusing, so it would be better to write:
UK: 020 7012 3456
International: +44 20 7012 3456

Last edited by Colophon; 08-07-2012 at 12:49 PM..
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  #16  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:14 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is online now
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When I was in electronics school, we learned that round brackets surround parts of the phone number that are optional in some circumstances. Since dialling the area code in NYC is now mandatory, the brackets are no longer needed.

+1 212 555 2345 is the best way to write a US number.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
You seem to have an extra "01" in there. The international code for the US (and Canada and other countries in the North American Numbering Plan is "1". So you just dial the international access code (represented by "+", which in most but by no means all countries is "00") then 1, then the number.
It is merely a confusing coincidence that 1 is the North American telephonic country code, and it also happens to be one of the North American trunk dialling digits.

This has the happy result that a North American can write a phone number as 1-212-555-2345 and have it usable for both other North Americans and for international callers. But it also blurs the distinction between trunk dialling digit and international country code so much that many North American people are unaware that North America even has a telephonic country code.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
...it would be better to write:
UK: 020 7012 3456
International: +44 20 7012 3456
Yes, that's the clearest way to write a UK number. Prepending the trunk dialling digit 0 to the area code is a local style that isn't used for dialling UK numbers from outside the UK.
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  #17  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:25 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
The last one would be very confusing, though, since it doesn't separate clearly the optional part. It assumes that the reader already knows the US prefix is 1 and will be able to remember to take it off if calling from within the US.
The OP asked how to format it properly, not how to format it sensibly.
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  #18  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:31 PM
Saint Cad Saint Cad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Famous Burrito View Post
Thank you, all, for your quick responses. It's seems clear that parentheses typically are not part of the presentation, then.
Kind of. When I'm calling England I will sometimes see (0)44 meaning the zero is optional when dialing the country code. It seems that is the convention when using parentheses in international numbers.
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  #19  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:35 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Spaces, no parentheses.

Increasingly I'm persuading my clients to get rid of the parentheses on purely domestic materials. Probably 70% of USians now have to dial the area code even on local calls.
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  #20  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:36 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
The last one would be very confusing, though, since it doesn't separate clearly the optional part. It assumes that the reader already knows the US prefix is 1 and will be able to remember to take it off if calling from within the US.
But in most cases you don't take it off!

For the US number 212 555 1234, you dial

212-555-1234 or 1-212-555-1234 locally, because 212 is in an area where you must dial the area code. (Local dialling conventions vary slightly.)

1-212-555-1234 or 0-212-555-1234 from long distance, depending on how you're paying for the call--1 is for normal calls and 0 for things like collect calls.

+1 212 555 1234 from international.
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  #21  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:38 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
Kind of. When I'm calling England I will sometimes see (0)44 meaning the zero is optional when dialing the country code. It seems that is the convention when using parentheses in international numbers.
Not quite - the (0) would be after the 44, directly before the area code. E.g. the London code is 020, so it might be written +44 (0)20. My home area code is 01252, so it could be given as +44 (0)1252, etc.
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  #22  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:45 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
Kind of. When I'm calling England I will sometimes see (0)44 meaning the zero is optional when dialing the country code. It seems that is the convention when using parentheses in international numbers.
I think what you may have seen (or at least it's common in England) is:

+44 (0) 1234 567 890

Which actually means:
From outside the UK, dial: +44 1234 567 890
From inside the UK, dial: 01234 567 890


All UK region prefixes start with a zero - but it's dropped when the call originates outside of the UK.
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  #23  
Old 08-07-2012, 01:50 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
But in most cases you don't take it off!

For the US number 212 555 1234, you dial

212-555-1234 or 1-212-555-1234 locally, because 212 is in an area where you must dial the area code. (Local dialling conventions vary slightly.)

1-212-555-1234 or 0-212-555-1234 from long distance, depending on how you're paying for the call--1 is for normal calls and 0 for things like collect calls.

+1 212 555 1234 from international.
And getting all that written as +12125551234 isn't confusing? How not, when it turns out that sometimes you have to dial 0012125551234, sometimes 12125551234, sometimes 012125551234* or 912125551234* and sometimes 02125551234? That's five different numbers without even getting into the different versions of the international code, and having it all together doesn't tell you that sometimes you do have to take out the 1 in front, or to substitute it for a 0.


* 0 or 9 for external line, then the number


For the Brits: while +44 (0) whatever is the usual version, it's very confusing for people whose countries' phone numbers don't have dropped numbers when calling from abroad; it often requires a verbal explanation. The double line needs no explanations.

Last edited by Nava; 08-07-2012 at 01:53 PM..
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