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When information is conveyed verbally, miscommunication may occur in a variety of ways, especially when transmission may not occur clearly (eg, by telephone or radio, or if communication occurs under stress). For names and numbers, the problem often is confusing the sound of one letter or number with another. To address this possibility, the military, civil aviation, and many high-risk industries use protocols for mandatory "read-backs," in which the listener repeats the key information, so that the transmitter can confirm its correctness.
Because mistaken substitution or reversal of alphanumeric information is such a potential hazard, read-back protocols typically include the use of phonetic alphabets, such as the NATO system ("Alpha-Bravo-Charlie-Delta-Echo...X-ray-Yankee-Zulu") now familiar to many.