RTTY contesting tips

If you’re new to radio teletype (RTTY) contesting, you’re about to fall in love with it.

The very best place to start your RTTY contesting preparation is How to Get Started, the must-see RTTY website by Don Hill AA5AU. You will find information for beginners and old hands alike.


I personally use the popular and free MMTTY software for RTTY contesting. This works seamlessly with the N1MM Logger software I prefer. For detailed help getting your software set up for a contest, see the very good N1MM and MMTTY tutorial.

Once your station is set up, you’ll want to get on the air and work stations. After operating about 170 RTTY contests over the past few years, I’ve gathered a handful of tips to share. None are novel or originate with me, but all bear frequent refresher visits (by me, if not everyone):


If you are answering a CQ, don’t send your contest exchange until you’ve received an exchange from the CQ station. This is one of the most common mistakes made by a new contester.

When you copy the CQing station’s exchange first, you know they are paying attention to you, not some other caller who was louder or quicker on the draw. Mostly I ignore callers sending their exchange without first having the courtesy to see if I can hear them.
Some new operators may think they are saving everyone time by sending their exchange without being asked for it. It doesn’t save time — it throws off the smooth cadence of a good CQ run, and usually results in senseless QRM as the offending station transmits an unwanted exchange on top of other calling statoins. A smart operator sends his exchange ONLY after receiving one from the CQing station.
Don’t just send your serial number as “2” — send it as “002” because it’s just easier to see in the clutter, and easier to click on in the received text.
Do send your serial number MORE THAN one time.
Send it as “002 002 002”. You could just send it twice, but I send three times, because if the first two numbers don’t match, the third is the tie-breaker confirmation.
Don’t send RST more than once. I hear some guys sending “599 599 599 4” and I wondered why they would only send the important info once, but the unimportant info three times. Flip that and send the serial number a few times and the RST just once. I know the RST, but not your number.Dosend RST as “599” not “5NN” — that’s CW shorthand, and doesn’t save a thing in RTTY mode.

CQing and Searching & Pouncing

If you’re calling CQ, add “CQ” to the end of your CQ message, that way we don’t have to wait around till your next CQ to see if you are inviting callers or answering one.

If you’re answering a CQ, don’t send my callsign at the start and end of each transmission. Once is plenty for me to know who I am and who you’re trying to contact. If you are CQing, it’s good to send the other station’s call at the start of the QSO to confirm just who the guy (or gal) is that’s getting your number.

Do keep at it. Send me your call a couple more times if I don’t come back to you right away or send “QRZ?” (but only if nobody else is calling me at the same time… I, for one, am not good at splitting out multiple RTTY signals).

Do turn off ATC and AFC if you have it on and are searching and pouncing on CQing stations. I would rather not have to chase your transmitted signal around my waterfall display or tune you in from 4 khz away.

Do jump in when you hear a RTTY contest on. It’s your contest too, and we all want (and need) you there!

Where to point your antennas

Finally, (and I am sure most knowledgeable RTTY contesters will agree with me on this), always point your antenna towards the U.S. Pacific Northwest/VE7 region and leave it there. Actually, just a shade north of W7 is perfect. It just works better that way.

OK, I am only kidding around on that last one. It actually applies to any mode, not just RTTY.


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