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telephone numbers (Linguistic recommendation from the Translation Bureau)

[The same content is available in French in the article NUMÉROS DE TÉLÉPHONE (RECOMMANDATION LINGUISTIQUE DU BUREAU DE LA TRADUCTION).]

To standardize the way telephone numbers are written in English and French in the federal public service, the Translation Bureau makes the following recommendation. This revised version includes a new section on international numbers.

Background

In a telephone number, the use of parentheses around the area code is no longer recommended. Formerly, parentheses were used to indicate that the area code was not always required. Now, however, the area code is required in most regions of Canada, even for local calls.

In Canada

The Translation Bureau recommends inserting a non-breaking hyphen after the area code and between groups of digits within a telephone number:

  • 819-555-5555

This recommendation applies to all telephone numbers in Canada, including:

  • cellphone, pager, facsimile and teletype (TTY) numbers
  • toll-free and long-distance numbers such as 1 800, 1 888, 1 900, 1 976, etc.:
    • 1-800-555-5555
  • alphanumeric telephone numbers:
    • 1-800-TERMIUM
    • 1-877-RESERVE

The format recommended here has the advantage of being the same in English and French. This format is the one recommended by the Canadian Numbering Administrator and the North American Numbering Plan Administration.

Service codes (411, 611, 911, etc.)

Hyphens are not recommended between the digits in service codes (411, 611, 911, etc.):

  • In case of emergency, call 911.

International format

The Translation Bureau recommends writing a Canadian telephone number in the following international format, without hyphens:

  • + 1 819 555 5555

The above format is recommended by the International Telecommunication Union.

The + sign reminds people calling from abroad to dial the international prefix for the country they are calling from, before dialing “1,” the country code for Canada.