Morse for Beginners

Initial Learning of Morse Code 

Don’t try to learn all the letters at one go. Try a few at a time. Daily short bursts of effort are far better than lengthy sessions without a break. Avoid attempting to learn the letters in alphabetical order; your ability to copy should be automatic, instantaneous and random.

A possible sequence could be as follows.


E=dit T=dah I=di-dit M=dah-dah S=di-di-dit O=dah-dah-dah H=di-di-di-dit


A=di-dah C=dah-di-dah-dit R=di-dah-dit W=di-dah-dah G=dah-dah-dit Y=dah-di-dah-dah


K=dah-di-dah U=di-di-dah J=di-dah-dah-dah L=di-dah-di-dit Q=dah-dah-di-dah B=dah-di-di-dit


V=di-di-di-dah P=di-dah-dah-dit X-dah-di-di-dah F=di-di-dah-dit Z=dah-dah-di-dit D=dah-di-dit N=dah-dit


Learn to recognise the code in sound patterns which have a rhythmic shape unique to the letter or symbol. Do not think visually of dots & dashes; think of aural patterns in dits and dahs, otherwise an additional step is added to your mental processes converting dots and dashes into dits and dahs. When copying plain language it is better to write in longhand rather than capitals which tends to slow down the transcription. Letter code or cypher (letters and figures mixed) should be written in capitals

Sending Morse

Sending good Morse is more difficult than receiving. Consider that the sender has to make a correctly spaced and formed signal. This involves a personal physical and mental effort. Whether sending 5 WPM or 25 WPM, the good operator should produce the same well formed signal. Professional Morse operators of the past had an unwritten rule where, if an error occurred in transcribing a text, it was taken to be the senders error. It was accepted that any trained operator could receive good Morse but not everybody had the ability to send well at all times and at all speeds under differing conditions.

In Morse communication, always send at the speed which you wish the other person to reply, e.g. if you are not comfortable with receiving at 20 WPM do not call at that speed and complain when the other person comes back at the same speed


The key should be at right angles to the edge of the desk. Comfortable posture and seating is needed. Your forearm should be in line and at the same level as the key. The first two fingers are placed on the knob and the thumb under the edge of the knob. The other two fingers play no part in sending. The elbow should remain fairly steady and keying is accomplished by a flexing of the wrist in an up and down movement. Other less conventional methods do work but if the student has any ambitions involving higher speeds, experience has shown the above to be the least tiring and conducive to good quality Morse. Learners are encouraged to use the conventional manual key correctly right form the start. Practising good sending formation and spacing is equally conducive to progress in receiving.



In the interests of brevity I leave the reader to acquire the number code and adopt the same rhythmic sound pattern systems.

Punctuation and Other Signs

When proficiency and confidence have been attained in letters and figures, proceed with the above.

See the following web sites for Morse generators


Typical Format for the RSGB 5 WPM or 12 WPM Morse Receiving Test

G4XYZ de J28FO





G4XYZ de J28FO

The 5 WPM test is sent on a pre recorded tape whilst the 12 WPM test is hand sent by the examiner. Both sending tests consist of typical amateur contacts as above at the appropriate speed.


Visual Morse

Whilst these notes were written with aural Morse in mind, the same techniques apply to visual Morse signalling. The response is to a light rather than a sound pattern. The Morse speed is limited by the response of the human eye. A fair speed would be 5-8 WPM. It is usually necessary for a second person to write down the message as the receiver calls out the letters or figures.


Maritime Visual Morse Signalling

Call: Series of A’s (di-dah)

Response: K (dah-di-dah)

Information passed. At the end of each word T (Dah) is sent as an acknowledgement of receipt of that particular word……. AR K


The above extracts are reproduced from lecture notes by James M MacKinnon, GM4EKC who is a senior Morse Examiner for the Radio Society of Great Britain.





Compiled by James MacKinnon, Senior Morse Examiner

Dated 9th February 2001 in Aberdeen UK