Give your CW a "break"
I was listening to CW stations tonight through my SDR having extended QSOs on 40m between 7015 and 7035. There seemed to be a good number of stations sending between 24 wpm and 28 wpm, maybe a bit faster. The signals were strong and I had good signal to noise on most of the conversations. 24-28wpm is generally faster than I'm able to comfortably copy but I use these listening sessions to improve my head copy skills.
As I listened I realized that I could copy some stations nearly 100% while with others sending at about the same speed I just could not head copy no matter how hard I concentrated. One particular QSO had two stations operating at the same speed and about the same SNR. I'd guess they were operating about 25wpm. One of the stations I copied easily without thinking much about it while the other I just caught a word here or there. The difference was their space between words. Not necessarily space between characters but between the words. I started paying closer attention to the station I could copy clearly and I could count about a one second pause between each of his words. The other station was running one word into the next.
Then I started switching back and forth between a number of QSOs and I recognized that my comprehension was very dependent on word spacing. I could even copy bug operators who had their DITS flying over 30wpm with 20wpm spaces clearly as long as they paused between words.
Silence is golden
The artist Sting is a famous bass player. I am also a bass player, certainly not a famous one, but I follow bass players and enjoy their different styles.
In an interview in 2000 Sting said:
For me, the sound is only half of music - the space between the notes is also vitally important...Is space the final frontier in being able to copy CW? Why is it that some CW operators, and I'll venture to say most CW operators don't put adequate space between their words. CW is not a fast mode of communication so why not give each word the importance it deserves? Why be in a rush?
I'm going to strive to put more space between my words in my next QSOs. It may just make copy for the other operator a bit easier and rather than them bailing on you after an exchange or two you may just chat away for an hour because they enjoy the solid comprehension of every word you send. If you work me and don't hear me putting an adequate pause between my words, call me out on it.
That's all for now
So lower your power, and pause before your next word, then raise your expectations