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I always have this problem of telling people my phone number which consists of a series of repeating numbers:

184 555 5555 (DO NOT CALL, this is just as an example)

I can tell people it is:

  • one eight four, five five five, five five five five, or;
  • one eight four, five, double five, double five, double five, or;
  • one eight four, five, triple five, triple five, or;
  • one eight four, five, sextuple five.

Is there a prescribed way or a widely practised method of transcribing long repeating phone numbers?

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I couldn't help but remember this: youtube.com/watch?v=ahqn-YeZzSM –  Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 28 '12 at 10:38
    
@ArmenԾիրունյան, that's funny, I would have hung up long ago. –  Question Overflow Nov 28 '12 at 10:41
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Old Irish joke: "Is that Dublin double two double two?" "No, sorry, this is Dublin two two two two." "Oh dear. Sorry to have disturbed you so late." "Don't worry; I had to get up anyway, the phone was ringing." –  TimLymington Nov 28 '12 at 12:34
    
also see closed How to say 888888, –  jwpat7 Nov 28 '12 at 13:02
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Say the numbers grouped as they are written. In the UK, it's more usual (in my experience) to use treble instead of triple, but it's all quite idiosyncratic.

Three-digit numbers are generally read out individually unless there is a trebled number or the second pair is doubled.

Groups of four numbers are generally read out individually unless there are groups.

Examples. Do not attempt to call these numbers.
184-555-5555: one eight four, treble five, double five, double five
118-500: one one eight five hundred
118-118: one one eight one one eight
118-177: one one eight one double seven
999: nine nine nine
112: one one two
01684-566778: oh one six eight four, five double six, double seven eight

In the UK, it's not usual to say things like fifty-five in telephone numbers:

01684-556677: oh one six eight four, double five, double six, double seven
not fifty-five, sixty-six, seventy-seven

Reading grouped digits as numbers like that is a continental thing: the French and Germans do it as their phone numbers are customarily represented in two-digit groups.

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Interesting that words like fifty-five for parts of telephone numbers is "not usual" in the UK. In the US, it's not unusual at all (for a sample, you can watch the end of this video, where both formats are used twice). –  J.R. Nov 28 '12 at 16:33
    
It would be more sensible to say 'double five, treble five, double five' to avoid direct repetition, but I agree this is rarely done. –  TimLymington Dec 1 '12 at 14:47
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Since the numbers in phone numbers are grouped, it's more clear to the listener if you say them in the same groups with an optional pause between the last pairs of digits. Thus I would suggest:

one eight four, five five five, five five five five
one eight four, five five five, five five, five five
one eight four, five five five, fifty-five, fifty-five

Your intonation can also help deliver the numbers so that the listener knows where you are in the phone number.

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If you really want to confuse someone, put pauses at OTHER than where the hyphens are in a phone number. Like if your phone number was 123-4567, say that as "twelve thirty-four (pause) five six seven". It highlights how much we get used to conventions. –  Jay Jan 3 '13 at 22:22
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If my number was 555-5555, I think I would enunciate it like this:

Five-five-five. [pause] Fifty-five fifty-five.

This isn't necessarily widely practiced, and it's certainly not prescribed, but it seems like a practical approach to eliminating or reducing miscommunication.

As an aside, contrary to what Andrew Leach has said about the UK, in the US, grouping consecutive digits of a phone number into a "paired" two-digit number is not at all uncommon, particularly when referring to one half or the other of the last four digits. For example:

If my number was 555-5892, that might be pronounced "five five five, fifty-eight, ninety-two."

Moreover, numbers ending with double-zero ("00") are often pronounced as "-hundred." So, for example:

If my number was 555-5800, that might be pronounced "five five five, fifty-eight hundred."

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I have taken to giving my number as one twenty-three thirty-four fifty-six, because I think it takes fewer memory "chunks" that way. I think it's also better because my number has repeated digits, and "eleven" is clearer than "one-one", which might represent repeating a number that I worry may not have been taken down correctly.

In the USA, this pattern is less common except for 800 and 900 numbers (toll-free and special toll), or numbers that end in one or more zeroes. I was inspired by hearing phone numbers on the many Spanish-language stations here in California, where they are always grouped this way.

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Uncommented downvote? Wow. –  Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 3:36
    
And an uncommented upvote, I see. –  TimLymington Dec 19 '12 at 16:09
    
@TimLymington: I don't recall seeing a box suggesting upvotes be commented. I do for downvotes. And I imagine both of us can thing of good reasons for that, as "Me Too" is a waste of bytes while "No, Spanish telephone numbers are grouped in fours" would be a useful (if true!) correction. –  Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 16:18
    
I do not know whether your mistakes are deliberate, but I do know they persist beyond reason. There is no box suggesting a comment for downvotes: the many meta questions requesting it (here and on many other SE sites) have been refused. And disagreement with a post is neither a valid nor common reason for downvoting; it looks as if you will have to find some other reason why all your posts are so unpopular (obviously there couldn't actually be anything wrong with them). –  TimLymington Dec 19 '12 at 16:30
    
@TimLymington: You're right; I confused with downvoting a question. I still find it rather surprising, especially when someone went to the trouble of downvoting three weeks after the question was asked, long after it had disappeared from the front page. I can indeed think of a reason for this, but it would be of little credit to the voter so I will leave it to your imagination. –  Andrew Lazarus Dec 19 '12 at 16:38
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