Writing Style – Telephone Numbers

BizWritingTip reader: “I have started to see phone numbers written with periods rather than hyphens. Which is correct? In addition, do you still put parentheses around the area code?”

BizWritingTip response: The elements in a telephone number may be divided by hyphens, diagonal lines, spaces, periods, parentheses or a combination of these. Your choice.

Examples (correct)

(519) 820-9909





905 820 9908 (When using spaces, separate each group of numbers with one space only.)

Parentheses are placed around an area code to indicate its use is not always required. For example, if the call is a local one, you do not have to dial the area code.

Example (Correct—The area code is not needed if you are calling locally.)

(519) 820-9909

However, in some areas, (i.e., Toronto and the surrounding area) all the available seven-digit numbers have run out. Therefore, even if it is a local call, you need to dial the area code. As a result, you would not put the area code in parentheses. It is not an option; it is essential.

Examples (Correct – The area code cannot be omitted even with a local call.)