Telephone number format

Over the years, telephone numbers have changed in order to make more numbers available to accommodate more telephone services and businesses. The many changes have resulted in some confusion about how to show a telephone number. This confusion is evident by the various different ways numbers from the same area of the country are shown on shops, vans, business cards, etc. This guide explains not only how your phone number should be shown but why.

Parts of a telephone number

Telephone numbers are in 2 parts: the local phone number and the area code. The local phone number is what someone else in your area must dial to contact you. The code is what someone in a different area must dial before dialling your number.

Almost all UK phone numbers, including the code, are 11 digits long. There are a few areas with 10 digits but not many. For example, Whatton in Nottinghamshire, 01949, has 5-digit numbers, making 10 digits in total.

UK area codes can be 3 digits with 8-digit phone numbers, 4 digits with 7-digit phone numbers or 5 digits with 6-digit or, as mentioned above, sometimes 5-digit phone numbers. It is useful to show your code followed by a space followed by the rest of the number, also with a space for easy reading. A common mistake is to show the code along with one or 2 digits of the phone number, followed by a space and the rest of the number. This leads to confusion as people not familiar with the area do not know which digits to dial and end up dialling all 11 digits when fewer digits would be enough.

For example, we have a Nottingham area code (0115) and our local number is 938 9685. This should be shown as 0115 938 9685. A common mistake in this area is to show the code as either 01159 or 01158, leading to the mistaken belief that there are 2 codes for Nottingham when there is only one. Calls in this area can be made by dialling the last 7 digits, omitting the 0115. It is not uncommon to find people dialling all 11 digits as they have tried dialling the last 6 (389685 in our case) and not got through.

Showing the code separately from the number avoids these problems. However, in order to do so, you need to know what is correct for your area, which can be confusing.

3-digit codes

There are a small number of 3-digit codes starting with 02 and serving areas with large populations. All should be shown as 02x xxxx xxxx.

Area Code Area Example
020 London 020 7946 1234
023 Southampton and Portsmouth
024 Coventry
028 Northern Ireland 028 9018 5678
029 Cardiff 029 2018 2345

When calling these numbers from a number with the same area code, simply dial the last 8 digits.

4-digit codes

There are also some large cities and surrounding areas served by 4-digit codes with 7-digit phone numbers. These are of the form 011x or 01x1. All should be shown as 01xx xxx xxxx.

Area Code Area Example
0113 Leeds
0114 Sheffield
0115 Nottingham 0115 946 0123
0116 Leicester
0117 Bristol
0118 Reading
0121 Birmingham
0131 Edinburgh
0141 Glasgow
0151 Liverpool
0161 Manchester
0191 Tyneside/Durham/Sunderland

When calling these numbers from a number with the same area code, simply dial the last 7 digits.

5-digit codes

The remaining codes begin 01 and are 5 digits followed by a 5 or 6-digit phone number.

Area Code Area Example
01246 Chesterfield
01773 Ripley
01332 Derby

When calling these numbers from a number with the same area code, simply dial the last 6 digits.

International dialling

All the above assumes you want to show the number for UK use only and that you have no interest in calls from outside the UK. However, if you do want non-UK residents to call you, you need to show the number in the international format.

In the UK and most of Europe, the international dialling code is 00. However, it is not the same throughout the world so the convention is to use + as a placeholder for the international dialling code, leaving people to insert their code as appropriate.

The country code for the UK is 44. It is also not necessary to dial the initial 0 when calling the UK from outside the country so this is shown in a bracket. For example, +44 (0) 115 946 0123 for Nottingham 946 0123.