Cw ops ?

Hey everyone,
I am in the midst of learning CW. I have watched many CW activations on Youtube and noticed alot of abbrevation or short hand. I of course have no idea what they mean.
What are the most used short hand phrases used on an activation ?


This looks pretty right:

Note - some are contextual. BK is either “break” or “back”, but can usually be figured out from where & how used.

John VK4TJ


Thanks for the info.
Of that list which are the most commonly used in the short exchange of an activation ?

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This document goes over the recommended usage. Actual usage may differ. For example, SOTA SSB activators in the US use “QRZ” to mean “ready for the next caller”. This document strongly says it means something else, so I was pretty confused for a while when I was starting out.

The official site for the document is here. That redirects to an IARU Region 1 site that only has MS Word versions (no PDF) and has a less recent version than the ARRL link above.


I have found this document to be a great help for SOTA CW abbreviations and protocol. SOTA CW Basics -


ANT, HW , CPY, DE, CQ, GM/GA/GE, K, HI, K, PSE, RST, SRI, TNX, UR, 73, and

for a brief time only “HNY” (Happy New Year). I see the author missed “CU” & “CUL” “See you” & “See you later”.

I note Americans usually exchange their 2-letter state abbreviation as well. The “rest of world” doesn’t bother.

Oh yeah - RST was not on there. Readability/Strength/Tone. You’ll probably only hear it with a question mark after it, meaning “I missed my report - please send again several times”.

Hi Glen, the post by VK4TJ is right. I would add O or T=0, N=9, E=5 and A=1
In your first steps, if you don´t feel confident don´t worry so much about sending abbreviations, at first learn them to know what the others send to you.
73 de JP3PPL

Assuming you know the call sign of the person you are working from a summit, and you are answering them because they called you : You are VA7XCW I am VK5CZ who called you. I have seen by Your Spot on SW3 your Summit reference so no need to bother sending me that info. You answer with " vk5cz ur rst 559 bk. I send to you "FB ur rst 559 73 tu Dit Dit or E E . Now probably me saying send E E at the end will stir up many reasons why you do or don’t send that at the end but in reality most ops do send it so suck it up. Now the reason for sending 559 is its one of the easiest numbers to send or receive and forget the / P on the call sign too . Its amazing how many folks spend more time correcting those pro signs on cw, and if a learner gets lost on any thing extra well they are buggered. KISS. Keep the info as simple as possible to abide by the rule of swapping a signal report, no need for your life story on SOTA. practice by listening or chasing as many on air activations as possible. If you listen to the most active SOTA ops on CW they have the most experience and follow their lead and you will get up to speed.
vk5cz …


Thank you everyone. The information was very helpful. It’s going to take some time to get the cw down so I can start using it. This info will help a lot when i finally get out and use it.
Cheers !


There are a couple of things you may hear while SOTA activating that aren’t in the general lists, S2S (for summit-to-summit) and REF (for summit reference).


If you’re going for brevity, 5NN, like they do in contests.

TBH, I abhor this reasoning in non-contest situations. I’d much rather have a true RST rather than a bogus number that someone send because “it’s easy.” I always send an accurate RST as a chaser or activator.


5NN means nothing more so than keeping the report as simple as possible for the learner of the craft. That is my reasoning, I been doing CW for 35 years on air so any encouragement to a learner is good. All good.

Listen a lot to good ops doing an activation. You’ll soon get the format, most common abbreviations, and rhythm of exchanges.
When ready, start chasing on CW at low speed. Good activators will slow down for you. Some operators forget how tough it was on their early CW contacts. You’ll likely be amazed how fast your speed and understanding will increase once you’re active on-the-air.
All Best, Ken


WebSDR is your friend. :slight_smile:


You’ve already gotten really good stuff here from far far more experienced operators than me (VK4TJ, VK5CZ etc) - but from the perspective of someone who started learning CW less than a year ago I’d say don’t wait mate just get out and do it on your next activation at whatever speed works for you. It may well end up being a dogs breakfast (from your perspective) but you’ll get yourself a QSO and you’ll be in the game! I ended up with a pileup on my first activation with 2 weeks of CW under my belt, it was stressful and I had no idea what I was doing but I picked a callsign out that was easy (ZL1TM) and worked them. Every activation was easier from there.

As an activator you just need their call and signal report (3 numbers in a row are easy to pull out) - everything else is secondary.

ZL4RA is the activator, ZL3GA is the chaser

ZL4RA: CQ SOTA CQ SOTA DE ZL4RA ZL4RA ZL4RA K (On a radio like the KX2/KX3 you can even just load this into the keyer so no need to crank this out manually, it will TX the whole thing on a button press, though I only started doing this recently)
ZL3GA: ZL3GA (Chaser comes back with their call)
ZL4RA: ZL3GA UR 5NN (You give the chaser back their call with a signal report)
ZL3GA: R UR 55N (Chase gives you your report)
ZL4RA: R TU 73 (All done)
ZL3GA: 73

The activator just has to call CQ, give a chaser back their callsign and 3 numbers, and that’s really about it! :slight_smile:

RPT, QRZ and ? are really the only appreviations that are likely to be important! :wink: - but folks will likely throw their call out multiple times regardless.

On your first trip out, nothing wrong with giving everyone a 55N (or 5NN) if you’re not super confident with numbers (in my humble opinion, it’s what I did). Your signal reporting skills will improve as you improve. In my view no one should reasonably expect a shakey fisted brand new operator running 10WPM to come back with an accurate 429 signal report to a chaser.

I’ve found the SOTA CW community to be a lovely bunch of people who are very forgiving of the mistakes we all inevitably make - give it a crack sooner rather than later! :slight_smile:


Don’t forget QRL? at least twice before jumping on a frequency!

Also, most of the time you can expect the chaser to come back with their S/P/C after giving your signal report…at least in the states. :slight_smile:


I am showing my ignorance, what is S/P/C?

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State / province / county