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Talking on the Telephone - Part 1

Talking on the Telephone - Part 1


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Talking on the Telephone - 1 – Leaving a Message



Hello! In this lesson, we will practice the English associated with listening to messages and leaving a message on a telephone answering machine or voice mail system.

In another lesson, we have learned to make an appointment on the telephone. The most important differences between making an appointment on the phone and leaving a message on the phone are that the other person will not be asking questions, and we cannot verify with the other person that we have been understood. However, the steps are basically the same.

We must identify ourselves, tell what we want, tell the other person how to contact us, verify, say thank you, and say goodbye. In studies of voice answering machines and messages, people have said that the most important information is a clear message of how to reach you.

People have also said they do not like to listen to the entire message in order to get your phone number.

While most people have caller ID, that does not necessarily mean they will know how to reach you. With that information in mind, we should leave our messages with a thought to how they will be received – and how long they will take to listen to.

Let's think about voice mail systems. Most answering machines and voice mail systems have a recorded message which answers the phone. Following this recorded message, there is usually a beep. The caller is given one or two minutes to give a message. However, the shorter and more efficient your message, the better your message will be received by the listener.

Basically, there are three types of messages that you will encounter on answering machines. There is the friendly businesslike message, the teenage message, and the automated phone message.

Let us listen to the friendly voice mail message that David reaches when he calls someone from his office.

Hi. This is Jackson Murphy. I'm unable to come to the phone right now, but please leave a message and I'll get back to you. (beep)

Jackson Murphy's phone message is a typical friendly businesslike message, and very easy to understand. He gives his name, the reason he is not answering (he is unable to come to the phone), what he wants the caller to do (leave a message), and what will happen (he will call back.) However, not all messages are so easy to understand.

Listen to this message on Jennifer's teenage nephew, James's cell phone.

(music playing in background) Hey! Welcome to my phone! You know what to do! So do it. (beep)

James does not expect to receive business calls. When he says "You know what to do", he means that you know you should leave your name and phone number. Then he says "So do it." He means that now is the time to leave your name and telephone number.

People often leave unintelligible messages on their personal phones, yet the system is the same, and you can still leave an intelligible message, even if you have not understood exactly what was said.

Some answering machines give you options. Listen as David calls this drugstore automated answering system to refill a medicine prescription:

You have reached Johnson's Drugstore on the corner of Manor and Kingsley, open 24 hours for your shopping convenience: For our photo department press 6; for cosmetics, press 4; for our general manager, press 1; for general merchandise, press 2; for the pharmacy press 8; to repeat this message press 9; to leave a message, press 3 now. To speak to a manager, press 0 at any time.

The Johnson's Drugstore answering machine requires careful listening, and it also requires David to press buttons in order to go further. David will have to press 8 in order to reach the pharmacy.

The Johnson's Drugstore phone answering machine and many others give callers the option of pressing "0" to speak to someone, but this option often comes at the end – after some callers have already given up in frustration.

Let us listen as David calls another friend from work. David gets the answering machine and leaves a message.

Phone: You have reached Patrick O'Malley at 555-9867. Please leave a message and I'll call you back.

David: Hi Patrick. This is David Jones at 555-2877. I'd like to talk to you about carpooling to the meeting next week. Can you call me back at your earliest convenience? Again, this is David Jones at 555-2877. Thank you. Bye.

Notice that the message clearly states whose phone David has reached when it states "You have reached Patrick O'Malley at 555-9867.". It then instructs you in what to do next: "Please leave a message and I'll call you back.".

David begins his message by greeting his friend.

He says "Hi Patrick. He could have said "Hello Patrick." Or he could have simply begun his message by saying, "Patrick, this is David Jones."

Notice that David leaves his phone number early in the message. Studies have shown that people appreciate hearing the phone number early so they can write it down and choose whether to listen to your entire message or not before calling you back. David says "This is David Jones at 555-2877.". He could have said "This is David Jones. My number is 555-2877.". He could also have said "Hi Patrick. David Jones calling. Call me on my cell at 555-9867.". Just as he would do if a person answered.

David then gives the reason for his call. "I'd like to talk to you about carpooling to the meeting next week.". Notice that David put his entire reason for calling into one sentence. He might have said "Please call me about carpooling to the meeting next week." or "I wonder if I could get a ride to the meeting next week." or "I'd like to talk about driving to the meeting together next week.".

David then says what he would like his friend to do. "Please call me back at your earliest convenience.". He could have said "Please call me back when you have a minute." or "Give me a call back when you can.". Or he might say "I'll try back later" or I'll call you later." or "I'll talk to you at work tomorrow.". David gives his name and phone number again, similar to the process of verifying an appointment on the phone. David closes his message by saying "Thank you. Bye.".

David's message contains the vital components of any phone message. Even if you have not understood the entire message on the phone you have called, once you hear the beep, you can leave a message. To be sure you are understood, follow the steps of giving your name and number, stating your message efficiently, asking for a call back, verifying by restating your name and number, and closing the message by saying thank you and goodbye.

Fantastic. You can master the art of leaving a perfect phone message. Write it down and memorize your basic message, and practice making minor changes until you have a large repertoire of messages that you are prepared to leave. "Please call me back."