Discussing proper sending way of CW

In the FOC reflector, there has been a discussion going on regarding sending CW. Some people claim that we should send accurate CW with proper dot dash ratio and spacing for some time. It helps the listeners to read us easier.

The problem may be divided into two aspects. CW sending should be accurate as if it were sent by keyboard. Dot dash ratio should be exactly 1:3 while there should be proper spacing between characters/words. The other problem is that such mechanically accurate sending is often boring to our ears. We appreciate musical rhythm in CW. It varies in time. We often feel comfortable with something exquisitely changing. It may reflect our heart beats. Anyway, that is why CW is called as an art.

Even though I admitted that such a discussion is not meaningless and is quite right, I felt a bit reluctant to go on such a discussion. This is the reason why I feel that way as shown in this post in the reflector. 


In my view, there are two points which make me reluctant to discuss
about this problem.
Firstly, this problem is often critical since recognition of bad keying
could be subjective. Certain keying could be artistic to some 
operator s while it sounds like a mess to the other, depending on 
the capability of reception.

Secondly, another difficulty to discuss about keying is that some 
operators have physical or even mental problems which prevent 
them from sending appropriately. It is not courteous nor beneficial 
to comment on their keying since it is almost impossible for them 
to improve it. 

However, there seem to be the case of anosodiaphoria. The operator 
could have improved keying but are not conscious of the problem with
their keying. In this case, we should tell them it is difficult for us to read 
them. It may let them realize the problem with their keying.
With this anosodiaphoria, they won't record their own keying etc. Our 
candidate report must be the only thing to help them realize it. Maybe,
no use to discuss about it in the recflector.

Let me realize it when my keying sounds sloppy. I will try not to be 
cranky at such a report.



  1. Shin

    I find it beyond belief that an organization such as FOC assumes that they have the right to tell people what they can do with their hobby. If people want to use a semi-automatic key and send terrible morse, that is their absolute right to do that. Just as it's the right of other individuals no not converse with them. Now, we have digressed to the point that one member has taken it upon themselves to write a "how to " book on sending and receiving decent morse (I guess by their own definition of "decent" morse). The FOC has a wavering image issue about being holier than thou relative to the masses. Now, we are going to publish a manual on what FOC believes to be good morse.

    As Wendy would say, "are you kidding me"

    1. I share the same impression as Wendy has had with that project, Don. It is like determining what to learn in a foreign language study as the second language acquisition. I guess in this old and slow way communication, hand keys including bug and side swiper have been the original tool. The keyer and keyboard are only substitutes to them for high speed sending etc. Without the former original tool, we won't appreciate the uniqueness and even personality in this communication mode.

      Any writing won't work without discipline by elmers or by real operation/listening on the air.

      I am sure their effort will end in failure.

    2. Don, Shin,

      I replied using a bug to a VU calling CQ some weeks ago on 20m and he came back with a PC-generated macro "BAD CW BAD CW BAD CW". His website describes a code-reader and a keyboard.

      On the Eham CW forum there is a discussion on the use of "EN" which we all know is a traditional way of sending "R", and has been around since CW began. Some forum writers accused senders of "EN" of being poor CW operators.

      These two examples show that as new CW operators enter the hobby, they have learned from software online and not through elmering or professional instruction. They only accept perfect machine code and anything else is poor CW. It is possible that CW is becoming just another digital mode.

      Unfortunately this mindset is starting to appear in FOC.

      I hope the day does not come when mechanical key users are shunned completely.

    3. John, et al,
      There's a gulf between older guys who were required to learn Morse for a license and those who were not. It's not possible to bridge the gap.
      I guess the VU was dependent on a code reader. Too bad. He doesn't know what he's missing.
      WRT FOC...I'm too old to be in it. All my Brit friends date back to the early 50s. Nobody knows me, so, although I get nominated on this side of the Atlantic, I don't get support. Having a license 70 years will carry that effect. ☹️

    4. John,

      Let's call such new comers as fake CW operators or, if it is too emotional, quasi CW operators.

      Don T,

      I thought you would had been a member. Nowadays, most members seem to be oriented to DXing/contesting. The club has changed a lot even since I joined it in 1988. Keep up your activity. I am sure you may meet some old friends in UK.


  2. I wish propagation were better, then we could have a 3-way QSO using our terrible CW !

    1. I guess we need to wait until the winter solstice, when it will be possible on 40 meters. I don't presently have a suitable antenna here on NA-046 anyway.

  3. John

    I have come to the conclusion that you have no chance to please everyone, including within the framework of a small organization like FOC. The nominating process of the club allows it to become focused on one type of operating. The people who enjoy contesting, for example, nominate contesters because they know them, they become sponsored by contesters and the rest get diluted. You have to admit that it's pretty hard to be a competitive contester using a mechanical key. So, those of us using manual keying become even further into the minority. My original statement, I will just continue to do what I do. Some days are better than others. Should someone chose not to talk with me, plenty of spectrum and plenty of electronically sent "perfect" cw for them.

  4. I used to enjoy listening to and working old timers using their side swiper keys. They sent "consistent CW" that reminded me of those with a southern drawl. A good CW operator has little trouble copying a less than perfect fist.

  5. For a real mess of CW imperfections I nearly exclusively use old "bug" type keys. It took me little time to become acclimated to using the keys. I am not a left handed individual, however, I use the right handed bugs with my left hand. Why? It is because of musicianship. In my mind the heavier note (Dah) makes better sense to strike with the thumb. The reciprocal notes (Dits) being sticken with the finger(s). The same technique as used to play Bass or Guitar. Though these instruments I play Right Handed. I wonder if the FOC were to view my sending on video if they would feel a need to instruct me to perform my renditions and practices differently?

    73 from K5NSN

    1. Hi Jim,

      It is interesting that you are a handling right hand bug with your left hand. I am accustomed with right handed bug and can't try your way of sending. If it is after guitar performance method, some left handed guy might try your way.

      Thanks for the QSO last night. I wished the band had been a bit quieter. Maybe, in a few weeks, this static noise could be calmed. See you then and let me know if your Ohio QTH belonged to the rust belt.