QRS & Farnsworth Spacing

I am trying hard to learn Morse and I’m struggling a bit on the air. How do you get the other station to increase the spacing between characters but keep the character speed the same. I can copy 20 wpm with 10 wpm spacing or less. When I send QRS I get slower Morse but the spacing is still to close. I find I need more processing time to read slower Morse with closer spacing. Is there a Q code or pro-sign to ask for increased spacing only ?? I feel this would give me more confidence and help me gradually build my speed or do I go back to learning characters at a reduced speed with closer spacing and build from there ? I’ve read some of the archived topics and found some helpful nuggets re QSO formats etc but not what I’m looking for re increased spacing. All suggestions gratefully received.


Hi John,
What you’re thinking of is a code (QFW perhaps) that asks the other sender to increase the inter-character gap. I don’t know of any such code.

(The Q codes usually have the letters R, S and T as their second letter, you can understand why. But that’s just convention. )

The only real solution is more receiving practice. Perhaps you can adjust your receiving practice code generator to reduce the spacing closer to the standard so that you get practice receiving standard code spacing.

In the meantime, just send “more gaps pse”.
And I assure you, the more you hear, the easier it gets and the better you copy, without realising it. Like any language, morse is processed in your brain and you need to lay down new pathways to enable you to do this. There is no known way other than practice to teach the brain new tricks.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Thanks Andrew, I know I need to practice more but I’m just champing at the bit to get a few QSO’s in the log and want to get on the air ASAP as I know this will probably help me more that practicing with the various CW programmes I have. I never thought of just asking “more gaps pse”. Sometimes the solution is a simple one and staring you in the face.

Thanks again

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend ‘Morse Runner’ software by VE3NEA. It is very realistic and FUN! I was able to improve my ability to copy very rapidly using this software. I also improved my ability to deal with a pileup using this software. I found the program very enjoyable to use, and therefore I would practice more (which is the real key to success).

Good luck John. Have fun. :+1:


Hi John,

Yes - though to be realistic, not all hams will understand that request. You need to send in the exact way you want the other station to send. The good operators will copy your style. The machine gun guys think it’s all about them and how fast they can send. Simply don’t give them contacts.

A further thought is to adjust the spacing gradually as suggested, down to the spacing that you find difficult. Say you go from double spacing (say 200%), to slightly less, say 150%. That may seem difficult. Try it for 5 minutes of reception. Then take the spacing back up a bit, say half way to the original, 170%. Do another 5 minutes at that spacing. It will seem easier.

Repeat that process and eventually you will find the standard spacing difficult but feasible. Return to the slightly wider spacing to regain confidence.

If you train yourself in this way, I think you will find this helps you by challenging your current ability, then reassuring you that the underlying capability is still there, then challenging you again. This principle is used in many learning scenarios.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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I’ve seen people put ‘Farnsworth’ as comment in alerts and posts. That and sending, modeling how you want chasers to send may get partial results.
Peter KD0YOB

Hi John, welcome to the world of CW.

I agree with Andrew - it’s not just being more considerate to adjust to the other person’s sending speed and spacing, one is more likely to be understood and complete the QSO without need for repetitions. When responding to a CQ call, a callsign sent once at moderate speed is better than 3 times at high speed.

Some chasers don’t realise (or maybe don’t care) that activators often operate in adverse conditions, wind noise at the summit, listening without over-the-ear headphones (too bulky to carry), tired, cold, brain not working so well and on radios with modest antennas.

I find the majority of SOTA chasers are very good and adjust to or close to my sending style (usually ~17wpm with increased gaps). Sadly, a few don’t respond to my sending QRS and they risk my entering an incorrect log entry or, when back home, I decide it’s not safe to use those contact details. What price vanity?

73, Andy

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Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this approach. Keep the speeds of the characters and the spacing the same as each other, and use the speed at which you can cope. As your CW improves, you will start to recognise the rhythm of entire words - but this won’t happen if the speed of the spacing is inconsistent with that of the characters.

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Thanks for the replies. I do send the way I can read. I totally agree with what your saying Tom, at the end of the day the goal is to head copy and that won’t happen without the correct rhythm to the words. But, like you also mention in previous posts, being on the air is the best practice and that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m sure the gaps will begin to narrow with a bit more practice and I will eventually find a speed I can read and send comfortably. Thank you all for your input.

Precisely my thoughts indeed Andrew. I always try to reply in the style of the morse that I am receiving. Unfortunately I hear many (thankfully not usually SOTA ops) that plough on regardless expecting their morse to be copied. How arrogant is that? !!! I suppose some have an excuse as they don’t know how to adjust their keyer. It is much easier with a straight key! :grinning:

Oh, and as for morse send at ballistic speed… I was told never try to emulate that as it is bad practice. Send it once, have it copied once and then there is no need to ask for a repeat.

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Hi John

Excellent advice from some of the other CW operators to which I can’t really add too much.

If I hear QRS, then it indicates the other operator wants me to slow down overall. So that includes characters and spacing. Are you saying that if someone sends slow characters you still need the same or similar gap (10wpm).?

Sometimes I’ve heard of operators who can - and do, send faster than they can receive. which may mean the other operator is judging your request to slow down incorrectly. Lets say you are sending at 22wpm (forget the spacing for a minute), and I match your 22wpm speed and you then ask me to QRS I’ll drop my speed to a little less, lets say to 20wpm which you still can’t read unless also drop my spacing to 10wpm, which I won’t know you want me to because I’m assuming you can read at the speed you are sending at. So do you know what speed you send at?

In my opinion you’ll learn to increase you speed (overall) pretty easily if you simply turn on your radio and listen to the fastest QSOs you can read and try to copy down as much as you can. Once you feel you are making a little better progress hunt for faster operators. As others have said, there’s plenty of ‘apps’ out there which you can set your word speed to whatever you want (20wpm is fast enough in my opinion) and gradually reduce the spacing until it too matches the character speed, which is the ideal.

David P

Hi David, I use G4FON and can read 20 wpm character speed with 10wpm spacing, so the speed of the characters is fine it’s just how fast they come at me that can give me problems, as I need a bit of processing time. When I send, I send at 20 wpm with longer gaps, I’m sure with a bit more practice it will all fall in to place.



Hi David,

I think John is saying (he’ll correct me if I’m wrong) that he doesn’t need the sender to reduce the character speed (unless it’s over 20wpm) but rather the gaps between them so he has time to think. That’s the point of the Farnsworth method.

Reducing the character speed too much (e.g. 10wpm) has two disadvantages-:

  1. you start to hear each character as dots and dashes rather than as a unique rhythm or sound
  2. you still have to wait until the end of the (slowly-sent) character before you recognise it.

When the caller is, or requests QRS, it’s a judgment call for the sender whether to increase gaps a bit for everything or just for key words like your callsign, SOTA ref, etc. As Tom implied, normal gaps are needed so that the CW novice can start to recognise and remember whole words, common ones anyway, like RST, 73, etc.


Your spot on Andy, that’s exactly the problem I have. If there was a Q code for increase spacing, it would make life easier, give me more confidence & hopefully increase my speed. However, like someone all ready pointed out, I’ll try sending “more gaps pse” and see how that goes.

Thanks all

Andrew the Q codes used by hams are very limited as you know.

QOA to QQZ were for maritime usage = ships. Others for aeronautical use. QOA meant, “I can communicate by telegraphy on…KHZ.”

Why the 2nd letter is often R or S is simply down to how the Q codes occur in order. The ones following QRA through to QSZ are largely those which would be used by All radio operators on sea, land and air to establish basic comms, establish working arrangements and send traffic.

Most/many have absolutely no use in ham radio. eg, QTC - I have … telegrams for you, or QTB, “I don’t agree with your counting of words”

Most people who learn the Morse code seem to hit an upper speed limit as they progress.
Here is the reason and how to overcome it.

Receiving High Speed Morse…
Here is what I have found during my Morse life time and you have probably heard it before,
But I have to emphasize it: Copy Words - Not Letters. Receiving HSM is like playing an anticipation game in your brain.
M1EYP has it correct…

You have already learned how to do that for many words at slower speeds and your Google Search engine does it all the time with its auto completion program. When you do a Google Search, and type in… ‘Indianap…’ Google brings up ‘Indianapolis’ before you can finish typing the word, ‘Moorest…’ brings up ‘Moorestown’, ‘Camd…’ brings up ‘Camden’, ‘Wheel…’ brings up ‘Wheel of Fortune’. When you copy some one sending ‘Missi…’, You say to yourself, I know he is going to send ‘Mississippi’, why can’t he just send MS.

Your brain does this when you are receiving Morse.
This is not cheating, it is just how your brain completes the missing elements.
Remember the old FCC “Fill in the Blank” Morse code tests. It had partial sentences to complete like “My _______ is in a tree”. The answer was “Antenna”. HSM requires that the anticipation game extend from just words now to common phrases. The phrases are common sayings or Clichés frequently used in the TV games like the Wheel of Fortune.
You already intuitively know all these phrases, you only need to practice them on HSM.
Like “The XYL has…” The anticipated phrase is going to be: Called me to dinner, Come home and I have to QRT, etc…
or “I am really out on a…” Limb.

When you begin copying HSM you will immediately hear the words like: And, The, Good, You, plus your Call, Name, QTH, etc. It may surprise you that you already know a lot of words and that should encourage you to listen more. This process has been taking shape ever since you started using Morse.

HSM can be like the 'Butterfly of Love’ that will gently land on your shoulder after you quit pursuing it. HSM begins differently for each person but it should begin at a speed that is more than you can write down. If you are still writing you are probably copying letter by letter.
You have to learn to copy Words and now Phrases in your head.
The High Speed I am talking about usually starts between 30 and 40 ‘Words’ per minute.

Obviously, the Morse word sounds can not be deciphered this way if they are sent slowly and letter by letter with big spaces in between. The Farnsworth method (Bless him) which uses fast letter speed and wide letter spacing does not allow Word recognition. You have to learn the common words, but there will always be some that will not be in your HSM vocabulary… yet, like “Poughkeepsie”, unless you practice it. (If you live in Poughkeepsie please send your QTH as NY.)

After you become proficient at HSM, Slower speeds and Farnsworth reception will be like riding with a teenager who is learning how to drive a stick shift automobile.

Sending HSM…

Your manual dexterity or typing skills will probably be the limit to your manual sending speeds.

You can’t send 40 WPM on a CW keyboard for very long if your typing speed is only 20 WPM.
If you know how to “Touch Type”, you probably know that the typing becomes a hand movement pattern routine.
The hand typing patterns get hard wired into our body after we practice them enough.

A CW keyboard will allow you to send great CW, but the outgoing CW speed is limited by your typing skills.

Using a Bug or Paddle will also have manual dexterity limits but you don’t have to send as fast as you can receive.
I use a single lever paddle when I am operating Pedestrian Mobile and find it better for HSM. I have also noticed that if I forget what I am sending or get distracted my words can be completed automatically by my repetitive hand motion pattern. When I send my call sign, it has a definite pattern and that pattern is never broken. If my brain sends a priority interrupt message (Like: “BALANCE!”, “You Are Falling”) as I am walking along on a trail, I re-balance my body and my hand keeps sending what ever word I am sending without me thinking about it. (You can send and receive HSM while you are out hiking on the trails).

Why Operate HSM?
It is really easier and more conversational.
It allows you to send more information or make more QSO’s.
It saves energy, (important if you are operating on a battery).
Paul W0RW


Hi David,
I admit to dimly remembering some of the other Q series. I hope no-one assumed there were no other Q codes than the QR, QS and QT series. But even if there are, they are unlikely to hear them in use on ham bands, or in fact anywhere now.

It was somewhat whimsically that I suggested a Q code that would say Please make your letter spaces longer.

Like a universal perfect cw decoding tool, some things just don’t exist.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Hi Paul,

Thank you for your expert advice on getting our code speed up.

Of course, those of us who took the Morse test had to learn to write it down to hand the script over to the examiner. It’s sometimes hard to break decades-old habits. But I recognized a while ago, if I was ever going to get above my speed plateau, I would need to put the pencil down and try to ‘head copy’. So, I’m spending time in the evenings just listening to CW QSOs especially ragchews. Still work in progress.

With these winter-time activations where my brain and paddle fingers are frozen even before erecting the HF antenna, I find it hard to imagine ever approaching the kind of speeds you mentioned (except maybe in the shack).

To be fair, the method is aimed at beginners learning the character set from scratch, and once learnt they should be progressively reducing the gap interval to normal. Once that’s completely subconscious, I would suggest learning whole words is next.

73, Andy M0ALC / G8CPZ

P.S. Great /PM photos on your qrz.com entry