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What is Basic Telephone Etiquette?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Some bemoan the lack of basic telephone etiquette both in personal and professional calls. Telephone etiquette offers a way for people to function politely together in a society, eliminating frustration and communication mishaps. However, telephone etiquette works best when all know the rules.

Start early teaching children telephone etiquette. Don’t let a child pick up a phone unless he or she has a working knowledge of what to say. No one wants a frustrating conversation with a barely conversant one year old. Instead, train children who are about three to five, depending upon their speech ability, to learn how to answer a phone politely.

Answering a phone begins with a simple “Hello.” For children, basic telephone etiquette includes politely asking who the caller is. The person on the other end of the line should identify him or herself, but frequently this is not the case. Instruct the child to listen for an introduction before asking for one.

A sample of a beginning telephone etiquette approved call is the following:


“Hi, can I speak to your mother?”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“This is Bob Shipley from the Auto Store.”

“Can you please hold on for one moment?

At this point the child should be able to tell the parent who is calling, and not scream as loud as possible, “Hey mom, Bob Shipley is on the phone!” If for some reason the parent is occupied, changing a diaper, or in the bathroom, the child should return to the caller and state that the requested person is unavailable. At this point the child should take a number or message. The child should not disclose the requested person’s actions, such as “She’s in the bathroom.” He or she should merely state the parent cannot come to the phone and will call back quite soon.

Teaching this basic telephone etiquette to young children can result in lifelong mannerly habits toward callers. The next telephone etiquette rule is to make timely callbacks. If a child has vouched for a parent calling back quickly, the parent should do just that, unless an emergency arises.

For the caller, identification is key. A greeting from the “callee” should be followed up with “Hi this is so-and-so. May I speak to Mrs. Jones?" One should present enough information about one’s business upfront, where possible. Medical offices and credit card companies are the exception due to confidentiality laws. In this case, those calling can only state their name and number.

Telephone etiquette requires both the caller and receiver to be ready to write down information when required. Before making a call, or taking one, be certain to have a working writing implement, any information one may need to give, and something upon which to write.

For the sake of the person on the other line, keep phone calls brief but friendly. Once business is transacted, end with simple thanks, either for using a business or for providing needed information. Thanks should be reciprocated to promote good phone etiquette. As well, be mindful of different time zones. Aim for phoning during the day. Avoid calls before 9am, and after 9pm.

Basic telephone etiquette also requires politeness to solicitors. It is not necessary to listen to an entire sales pitch. One can inquire the name and business of a solicitor, who is usually working off a script, and then express disinterest in the business or products. One can also state that he or she dose not conduct business over the telephone. One may also request to have one’s name put on a do not call list in the future.

Screening calls with caller ID is acceptable when one has neither the time nor inclination to talk to a caller. One also is not required by basic telephone etiquette to return phone calls from unwanted solicitors. If one screens calls from family, friends or business associates, however, one should make an effort to return calls in a timely manner.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon154835 — On Feb 22, 2011

I struggle with telephone voice. the nervousness puts me off in my new job and makes me forget simple pieces of info. i think practice is the key!

By anon114046 — On Sep 27, 2010

Always thought that the person initiating a personal telephone call was the one to end the call. Please let me know if this is correct.

By anon82289 — On May 05, 2010

having telephone etiquette is simply putting courtesy into practice.

By anon37224 — On Jul 17, 2009

telephone etiquette is just another way of making life bearable.

By mendocino — On Jun 04, 2009

I think one can throw in a cheerful voice. It doesn't cost anything, just makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia...
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