What is a message?

The process of communication begins when the sender or person with whom the communication originates has a message. The message is the information that is being passed on during the communication process. The message connects the sender to the receiver.

By definition, a message is a compilation of information—whether visual, verbal, or numerical—that can be written (and read), created as images (and seen or felt), spoken (and heard), video recorded (and seen, heard, and/or read), digitally analyzed (and interpreted), and so forth.

Messages may be given more formal descriptors, such as speech, email, post, story or article, news or feature item, film or video, program, show, book, song, and comments or discussion concerning any of the above.

Consistent with the context of communication process Opens in new window, a message may be an idea, whether a simple greeting or a complex idea, the form of the idea is shaped by assumptions occasioned by the sender’s experiences. A manager sending an e-mail announcement to employees assumes they will be receptive, whereas direct-mail advertisers assume that receivers will give only a quick glance to their message.

An idea is expressed by a set of signs which must be understood and interpreted. As a people, we use signs and codes to formulate messages because we cannot transfer meaning from one mind to another.

A sign is something that stands for something else. Verbal signs are spoken and written words and sounds. A message sent without spoken or written words is a nonverbal communicationOpens in new window. Nonverbal signs—gestures, posture, facial expressions, color, and lighting—are cues or signals that express a meaning; they are generally transmitted without the use of sound.

As you speak, you choose words to convey your meaning. Occurring almost simultaneously, your verbal message is accompanied by and given additional meaning by your nonverbal signs — body movements Opens in new window, facial expressions Opens in new window, tone of voice Opens in new window, and hand gestures Opens in new window.

Likewise as you listen to others, the nonverbal signs they use affect the meaning you assign to the verbal signs. For example, a friend may say, “I’m fine, thanks”, but the expression on his face shows that he is visibly upset.

Important Hint!  

For effective communication to be accomplished, sender should:

  • clarify the idea
  • contemplate and decide on purpose of message
  • analyze the idea and how it can best be presented
  • anticipate effect on receiver

Bonus Thoughts on Sign

Signs are combined in a systematic way according to rules of codes. A code tells us what signs to use and how to combine them to communicate meaningfully.

A code is also known as a social convention: the practice of using and combining certain signs becomes established as a fixed pattern in society over time. For example, grammar is the code for the use of language.

We combine words to form sentences according to the rules of the language we use. But language is not our only means of communication. We are also familiar with traffic signs or pictorial signs, for instance.

We can regard such groups of signs or sign systems as “languages”, each made up of special types of signs with its own special code. For example, we know how to behave at the traffic lights because the traffic code in our society provides the rules by which we understand the meaning of the colour signs red, green, and amber.