UK Area Codes and Phone Number Information

Why phone number formatting matters

It's worth knowing how to correctly display phone numbers in the UK - it can make numbers easier to understand, easier to remember and avoid confusion.

1. Easier dialling

Making clear the distinction between the area code and the local part of a phone number makes it easy for callers to tell which part of a number is optional when dialling locally.

Example: Writing a Bristol number in the format (0117) 9460018 shows people they can call that number by just dialling 9460018 locally. If it's wrongly written as 01179 460018, people will think the local number they can dial is just 460018 - and they won't get through.

2. Fewer wrong numbers

Badly written sign

When people are mistaken about an area code, they'll wrongly 'correct' a number that looks unusual - and then dial the wrong place.

Example: Cardiff has the area code 029, followed by eight-digit local numbers. But people in the habit of thinking Cardiff's area code is '02920' are mistakenly 'correcting' numbers that don't match their mistaken assumption. They might, for example, wrongly dial (029) 2123 4567 as 029 20234567 or 02920 2123 4567. Alternatively, they might make the mistake shown in the picture - by prefixing an eight-digit local number with '02920' instead of the correct 029 area code.

3. Local recognition

If people don't recognise an area code, they might not think your business is local.

Example: Coventry's area code is 024. Writing a Coventry number in the style 02476 123456 makes it harder for people to recognise that it is a Coventry (024) number. And once people start thinking there are separate '02476' and '02477' codes instead of the reality of a single 024 code followed by eight digit numbers it gets even more confusing!

4. More memorable

Writing numbers correctly gets people familiar with their own area code. They can then simply remember the local part of numbers in their town or city, rather than all 11 digits.

Example: It's much easier to remember 546000 than it is to remember 01582 546000.

5. Search engine optimisation

Correctly written phone numbers are more likely to be found by people in web searches and are more likely to be included in online directories - crucial for marketing.

Example: If somebody in Edinburgh searches online for 'taxi 0131' they'd find a taxi company that correctly listed their number in the format 0131 496 0018, but not if the number was wrongly published as 01314 960018. The same applies for automated software used to build popular business directories online.

6. Easier to communicate

Ever have somebody read out a number over the phone in a weird format and find it really hard to take in? It's much easier to take on board a number if it's in the format you're expecting.

Example: There's far less room for error if everybody in Sheffield quotes their number in the style '0114 - 272 - 6444' or 'Sheffield 2726444' than some saying '01142 726444' and others saying '011 4272 6444'.

7. A professional image

Would you trust a company that had a significant spelling mistake or error in its publicity materials? Why would you trust one that can't write its own number correctly?

Example: If a business in Leeds writes its own number as having an 01132 area code instead of the correct 0113 code, it's essentially showing that it doesn't even know how to write its own number!

8. Avoids misconceptions about your number

Spacing in numbers implies a meaning. The wrong spacing makes people draw the wrong conclusions about where you're located.

Example: Despite London having had a single area code (020) since the year 2000, many people wrongly think that '0207' numbers are only for central London and that '0208' is for the outer areas. In fact, it is now quite normal for an (020) 8 number to be issued in central London, or an (020) 7 number allocated in the suburbs. Incorrect spacing reinforces misunderstandings and causes people to make incorrect assumptions.

Full guidance on writing UK phone numbers »

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