Grammatical Styling: Phone #s

about 9 years ago, my company moved away from using dashes in phone numbers (XXX-XXX-XXXX or (XXX) XXX-XXX) to dots (XXX.XXX.XXXX – no parentheses, no dashes) for all of our designed collateral, marketing materials, letterhead, etc. the decision at that time was made from 1) a design point of view; we preferred the look of dots visually, which were complimentary to our URLs, and the took up less space; 2) there is no TOTALLY agreed-upon, authoritative standard editorially; and 3) now that all u.s.a phone numbers are required to include the area code, separating that 3-digit segment out in parentheses is not necessarily needed, and dots help make the number more uniform.

however, now some (not designers or writers … just semi-higher-up opinions) want to go back to dashes. I’ll be meeting with the main editorial writer tomorrow to continue discussing and standardizing this (and other things) in a document (“policy”)… which our design team has historically worked from for 9 years.

does anyone have a compelling argument for or against dots or dashes on this issue? if love to hear your thoughts… what you prefer and why.


Personally, I like the dots, but I don’t think it matters much as long as your company picks one and sticks to it as the company’s style. I’m not a fan of the parentheses, though. As you said, area codes in the US are no longer optional or, I suppose, paranthetical.

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I wouldn’t be arsed arguing this.

If asked, I’d go with the majority.
Just push what is required, and a few options.

Go with the semi-higher ups decide.

That’ll be their big win for the year. And they’ll be delighted with themselves.

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:point_up: This :slight_smile:

We all know how higher ups like to get a pat on the back :wink:


I always preferred dashes because dots look like the number is something else. Dots are used in filenames to separate out the filetype. No parentheses makes sense if the area code is no longer optional.

Having said that, on this side of the water we use spaces and although area codes are still optional we hardly ever use parentheses for that. You often see them where an alternative is indicated, as with international codes. For example 0123 456 7899 where 0123 is the area code, but for international dialling you add a country code and lose the first zero; +44 (0) 123 456 7899.


Definitely go with dashes.

As someone who calls hundreds of people each week, hyphen’s are much more legible for breaking up the numbers, making the number easier to dial.

I think a lot of people are reluctant to make phone calls, so you want to make this process as easy and comfortable as possible.

Function over form.

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