Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? If what you have is a failure to communicate…maybe it’s time to put the NATO phonetic alphabet to use. Anyone who’s worked with the military is familiar with it. Even civilians may use a variation when they’re trying to be understood over the phone.

The NATO phonetic alphabet was adopted in the 1950s. The 26 code words are assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Several variations of spelling alphabets have existed through the years The phonetic alphabet we hear commonly today was adopted for radio communication by the International Maritime Organization in 1965.

The NATO phonetic alphabet is used today in military communication and radio communication, whether you’re trying to be understood across time zones or across the room. Why the need for a phonetic alphabet? If you think you have a noisy office, just imagine trying to signal military landing locations amid gun fire and radio interference. Every letter counts and clear communication just might save lives.

The next time you’re having a Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment, you can thank military communicators for helping you get your point across more clearly.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.