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Q Codes & Morse Code Shorthand: The Complete Guide

We've all had those moments when someone told us one thing, and we heard something completely different. The fact is, communication can sometimes be hard. It's full of slang, miscommunications, ambiguities, and thousands of different little words that we may not even know.

When you are trying to communicate quickly and effectively, reducing these errors and standardizing the process is a good first step!

So let's look at one of the most common systems of shorthand that was used to simplify important radio communications—Q codes and wire signals!

Other Related Morse Code Guides:

What are Q Codes?

Q codes are an internationally standardized group of 3 letters, all starting with Q that are used to express common questions and answers quickly and accurately.  You can essentially think of them as 3 letter abbreviations.

The first Q codes were developed by the British government in 1909 and used by the Navy as a shorthand communication system.

They were quickly adopted internationally as they allowed quick and clear communication between operators who spoke different languages.

While Q codes were originally created as Morse code, they are also with modern-day technology and communicated verbally.

How to Use Q Codes

All Q codes follow the same basic structure of starting with a Q and containing three letters.

They are broken down into three groups based upon the sector they are used for. These sectors are:

  1. Aviation - QAA to QNZ
  2. Maritime - QOA to QQZ
  3. General - QRA to QUZ

Q codes can be used in three ways—two pose a question, provide an answer to that question, or simply make a statement. Let's look at a practical example using the Q code QTH.

QTH with a question mark at the end is shorthand for asking, "What is your location?"

However, it can also be used to answer the question by communicating the Q code, followed by your location.

In this example, the response would be "QTH Denver."

"QTH Denver" can also be used as a statement if you are trying to convey that information without a preceding question.

Q Codes For General Use & Ham Radio

There are quite a variety of Q codes; however, the most useful group to know are the general use codes.

Below is a list of the most common Q codes used for general amateur ham radio, including how to use each as a question and answer.

Remember, if you ask a question, you need to add a question mark at the end of your code.

QRA What is the name of your station? The name of my station is ___.
QRB How far are you from my station? I am ____ km from you station.
QRD Where are you bound, and where are you coming from? I am bound ___ from ___.
QRG Will you tell me my exact frequency? Your exact frequency is ___ kHz.
QRH Does my frequency vary? Your frequency varies.
QRI How is the tone of my transmission? The tone of your transmission is ___ (1-Good, 2-Variable, 3-Bad.)
QRJ Are you receiving me badly? I cannot receive you, your signal is too weak.
QRK What is the intelligibility of my signals? The intelligibility of your signals is ___ (1-Bad, 2-Poor, 3-Fair, 4-Good, 5-Excellent.)
QRL Are you busy? I am busy; please do not interfere.
QRM Is my transmission being interfered with? Your transmission is being interfered with ___ (1-Nil, 2- Slightly, 3-Moderately, 4-Severely, 5-Extremely.)
QRN Are you troubled by static? I am troubled by static ___ (1-5 as under QRM.)
QRO Shall I increase power? Increase power.
QRP Shall I decrease power? Decrease power.
QRQ Shall I send faster? Send faster (___ WPM.)
QRR Are you ready for automatic operation? I am ready for automatic operation. Send at ___ WPM.
QRS Shall I send more slowly? Send more slowly (___ WPM.)
QRT Shall I stop sending? Stop sending.
QRU Have you anything for me? I have nothing for you.
QRV Are you ready? I am ready.
QRW Shall I inform ___ that you are calling? Please inform ___ that I am calling.
QRX When will you call me again? I will call you again at ___ hours.
QRY What is my turn? Your turn is numbered ___.
QRZ Who is calling me? You are being called by ___.
QSA What is the strength of my signals? The strength of your signals is ___ (1-Scarcely perceptible, 2-Weak, 3-Fairly Good, 4-Good, 5-Very Good.)
QSB Are my signals fading? Your signals are fading.
QSD Is my keying defective? Your keying is defective.
QSG Shall I send ___ messages at a time? Send ___ messages at a time.
QSJ What is the charge to be collected per word to ___, including your international telegraph charge? The charge to be collected per word is ___, including my international telegraph charge.
QSK Can you hear me between your signals, and if so, can I break in on your transmission? I can hear you between my signals, break-in on my transmission.
QSL Can you acknowledge receipt? I am acknowledging receipt.
QSM Shall I repeat the last message which I sent you? Repeat the last message.
QSN Did you hear me on ___ kHz? I did hear you on ___ kHz.
QSO Can you communicate with ___ direct or by relay? I can communicate with ___ direct (or by relay through ___.)
QSP Will you relay to ___? I will relay to ___.
QSQ Have you a doctor on board? (or is ___ on board?) I have a doctor on board (or ___ is on board.)
QSU Shall I send or reply on this frequency? Send a series of Vs on this frequency.
QSV Shall I send a series of Vs on this frequency? Send a series of Vs on this frequency.
QSW Will you send on this frequency? I am going to send on this frequency.
QSY Shall I change to another frequency? Change to another frequency.
QSZ Shall I send each word or group more than once? Send each word or group twice (or ___ times.)
QTA Shall I cancel message number ___? Cancel message number ___.
QTB Do you agree with my counting of words? I disagree with your counting of words. I will repeat the first letter or digit of each word or group.
QTC How many messages have you to send? I have ___ messages for you.
QTE What is my true bearing from you? Your true bearing from me is ___ degrees.
QTG Will you send two dashes of 10 seconds each followed by your call sign? I am going to send two dashes of 10 seconds each followed by my call sign.
QTH What is your location? My location is ___.
QTI What is your true track? My true track is ___ degrees.
QTJ What is your speed? My speed is ___ km/h.
QTL What is your true heading? My true heading is ___ degrees.
QTN At what time did you depart from ___? I departed from ___ at ___ hours.
QTO Have you left port? I have left port.
QTP Are you going to enter port? I am going to enter the port.
QTQ Can you communicate with my station by means of the International Code of Signals? I am going to communicate with your station by means of the International Code of Signals.
QTR What is the correct time? The time is ___.
QTS Will you send your call sign for ___ minutes so that your frequency can be measured? I will send my call sign for ___ minutes so that my frequency may be measured.
QTU What are the hours during which your station is open? My station is open from ___ hours to ___ hours.
QTV Shall I stand guard for you on the frequency of ___ kHz? Stand guard for me on the frequency of ___ kHz.
QTX Will you keep your station open for further communication with me? I will keep my station open for further communication with you.
QUA Have you news of ___? I have news of ___.
QUB Can you give me information concerning visibility, the height of clouds, direction, and velocity of ground wind at ___? Here is the information you requested...
QUC What is the number of the last message you received from me? The number of the last message I received from you is ___.
QUD Have you received the urgency signal sent by ___? I have received the urgency signal sent by ___.
QUF Have you received the distress signal sent by ___? I have received the distress signal sent by ___.
QUG Will you be forced to land? I am forced to land immediately.
QUH Will you give me the present barometric pressure? The present barometric pressure is ___ (units).

Common Wire Signal Codes

Wire signal codes are shorthand abbreviations of common phrases using numbered codes—similar to how police use 10-4 to communicate, "understood."

Let's look at s few of the more commonly used wire signal codes!

  • Code 1: "Wait a Minute"
  • Code 2: "Very Important"
  • Code 3: "What Time is it?"
  • Code 6: "I am Ready"
  • Code 7: "Are You Ready?"
  • Code 12: "Do You Understand?"
  • Code 13: "Understand?"
  • Code 14: "What is the Weather?"
  • Code 18: "What is the Trouble?"
  • Code 22: "Wire Test"
  • Code 24: "Repeat Back"
  • Code 73: "Best Regards"
  • Code 88: "Love and Kisses"

Wrapping It Up!

I hope that you found this little guide on Q codes and other types of Morse code shorthand useful. They can really add an old-school spice to your transmissions and add to the experience.

If you would like to learn more about Morse code, be sure to check out our Ultimate Morse code chart here and take a look through our Morse code archive!

Also, please consider sharing your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you all!

Happy Tapping!

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