How to Convert Telephone Letters to Numbers

by Rosemary Peters
Each number on a phone's keypad corresponds to a group of letters.

Each number on a phone's keypad corresponds to a group of letters.

If you have ever run into a 1-800 number followed by a mess of alphabetic characters and been confused, you’re not alone. The arrangement of numbers, letters and symbols on a telephone’s keypad has a history nearly as long as the telephone itself. However, after you realize that each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a number on your phone, it is simple to convert a phone number that includes letters to one you can dial.

Keypad Connections

In the Western world, each number -- except for the numbers 1 and 0 -- corresponds to a bank of letters. The numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 each symbolize three letters. For example, the number 2 represents A, B and C, while 5 symbolizes J, K and L. However, 7 and 9 represent four letters each; 7 corresponds to P, Q, R and S while 9 symbolizes W, X, Y and Z. You can count through the alphabet in this pattern to discover to which number each letter of the alphabet correlates, or you can use websites that convert the numbers for you. If you look closely at your phone's dial pad, you may see the numbers printed under their corresponding numbers.

Unraveling the Code

When you know that each letter corresponds to a particular number, you can decode any number. For example, let’s take the number 1-800-KEY-PAAD. K represents 5; E represents 3; Y represents 9; P represents 7; A represents 2; and D represents 3. Therefore, the number you dial on your phone is 1-800-539-7223.

About the Author

Rosemary Peters holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and a Master of Science in science communication. She has worked on editorial and design content across several publications, including "The Beacon" and "International Innovation." She has also spent time working in the Science radio unit at the BBC.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera StockPhotosArt/iStock/Getty Images