Time For A New Phone Number Format?

On Saturday the introduction of the 984 area code overlay brought mandatory 10-digit dialing to the area for all calls, local and “long-distance”. I may be wrong but it seems that the convention for phone numbers widely accepted for around 50 years now has been XXX-XXX (local) and (XXX) XXX-XXXX (full).

When we could dial 7-digits to reach a party, the area code wasn’t needed, so that prefix to the number was largely implied, and set off with parentheses. However now that it is mandatory, this 3-digit block is just as important as any other block in the number. Therefore it is not correct to use parentheses. Instead, it seems the two most acceptable phone number formats are:


Which is preferable? One of these formats is more confusing to computers than the other. The first presents itself as a mathematic expression while the second shows a double decimal number. Any thoughts here?


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  • Tim Miller Said:

    Dashes have been used for years, whereas I’ve rarely seen decimal points used.

    However, just because the area code is now “as important” as the other 7 digits that does not mean that the existing standard (xxx) xxx-xxxx should be abandoned.

  • Dave Said:

    I like spaces, myself. Looks classy and European.
    919 896 8381

  • net poser Said:

    A computer will never be “confused” at either. All phone numbers are strings anyway so they will be treated as such. Now a computer user could get confused.

  • Lissa Said:

    European countries use the decimal format. I like it as it’s easier to type.

  • Dana Said:

    By “confused” I mean a situation where an entry blank is expecting one format, but the user enters another, completely acceptable format. If the regex is written to only accept one format, or is written to recognize and handle an entry based on the format entered would process the data incorrectly. Have you ever entered a number text field (like 11/16) in an Excel cell that is formatted for Date? It destructively changes the data.

    As I said, the Area Code block of a 10-digit number is now an essential block. The delimiter between these three blocks of numbers should be the same to aid entry and to be consistent.

  • ct Said:

    Internationally there is a standard for number representation (“E.164”) but it’s silent on punctuation other than the leading + for a country code. Remember, there are still territories in North America where 7 digit dialing will be permissible forever. Likewise, when you travel to London and dial another number within the London area, you don’t have to dial the leading 020. Parentheses are widely recognized worldwide to denote an optional dialing prefix. That said, I prefer spaces or periods when there is no ambiguity about the prefix.

  • net poser Said:

    I understand Dana but that can happen with any type of number that’s not really a number. But I like consistency. So it it’s spaces, dashes, or a decimal then that will work for me.

  • Anonymous Said:

    Awaken Zombie Thread!

    What keeps messing with me is my SIP provider’s requirement that I include the country code even for US calls and most soft phones I have don’t provide a automated prefix injection rule or dial plan. Well, one of them did but I can’t get it to work and finally gave up on it. Caller ID-based redials/callbacks don’t work because they don’t have a leading 1. And some SIP clients, despite setting up all my contacts with leading 1s, unhelpfullly decide to strip the 1s out. :(

  • Anonymous Said:

    That’s a pain, citizenshame! This “1” prefix business needs to go, too!

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