Thursday, December 3, 2009

Communication vs. Communications

You know how some things just bother you? The misuse of communication or communications really, really bothers me. Perhaps that's because communication was my focus in graduate school. Or perhaps it's because I love all things grammar related. I know I'm not perfect. But I really try hard to write and speak correctly. (However, I often write in incomplete sentences on my blog. I know this.)

Sooooooo...here is the difference between the two if you've ever wondered. And if you haven't, at least you learned something today.

Communication: Communication refers to the communicating of information. It's the exchange of information between individuals by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior. It's the strategy and creativity.

Communications: The technology and systems used for sending and receiving messages, for example, postal, telephone, radio, TV and the Internet. The tactics used to execute a marketing communication strategy, for example, advertising, public relations, sales promotion, events...You use communications to employ your communication strategy.

If you work in public relations, you work in communication. If your work involves a telephone pole or radio antenna, you work in communications.

That's all, folks!

14 comments:

Mrs. Bear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Bear said...

I LOVE that you just explained this... there are so many people who don't understand the difference and I will never forget the diff because it was what we learned our first day in my Comm class in college!

Christin said...

Ha! I totally feel you. Thanks for this!

ragan said...

thank you!

Tony said...

I hate to be too technical here (sorry, I am an actually communication professor--with no "s," of course). You are mostly right. However, "communications" also includes the strategies used to communicate, not just the technology. So, the strategies used in a PR campaign are, in fact, communications. The message in the same PR campaign, however, is communication. That said, I cringe every time I hear someone use the words incorrectly (most comm profs do), and it's even worse when I hear a communication major tell someone that they are a "communications" major.

Tony said...

LOL. I should have looked at the preview for posting. Really, I do know how to use the English language! I meant to say that "I am an actual communication prof . . ."

Allison said...

Thanks, Tony! I appreciate the clarification. I guess I didn't really make that clear! And I knew what you meant. :)

Anonymous said...

So which is correct if a school offers public relations, print journalism and broadcast journalism? the school of communication or the school of communications?

Allison said...

Just because you are talking about different fields of expertise does not mean you need to pluralize the word “communication.”

When you say school of communication, you would still be talking about the communication of information as a field—not solely the technology and systems used for sending and receiving messages. Communications would be tactic, but not the name of the school.

kim said...

Hello, I am desperately trying to figure out if this sentence requires the pluralized form of the word communication. "In a world where communications are changing incredibly fast," - and then the writer goes on. I find the plural form awkward in this sentence. Can you help?

Allison said...

Kim—I think your best solution here is to add “methods” after “communication.” So, the sentence would read, “In a world where communication methods are changing…” I think this is what you’re trying to say, right? You’re referring to how people communicate, not solely the act of communication or the technology/strategies.

Anonymous said...

hey thx fo that u just got me extra credit in class

Andy in Omaha said...

Thanks for this useful thread on the correct use of communication vs. communications.

I heard the proper term is "strategic communication" -- singular -- and that is consistent with your explanation.

But what would be the proper form for the use of communication as an adjective? For example, if describing oneself in a resume', is it Communications Executive....or Communication Executive. The second may be actually correct, but the first one sounds better....is the first one possibly correct?
Hoping to incorporate this into an update of my resume, so it would be bad form to pitch oneself as an executive of communications -- or is it communicaTION? -- and get it wrong in the process!
Thanks,
Andy in Omaha

Andy in Omaha said...

Thanks for this useful thread on the correct use of communication vs. communications.

I heard the proper term is "strategic communication" -- singular -- and that is consistent with your explanation.

But what would be the proper form for the use of communication as an adjective? For example, if describing oneself in a resume', is it Communications Executive....or Communication Executive. The second may be actually correct, but the first one sounds better....is the first one possibly correct?
Hoping to incorporate this into an update of my resume, so it would be bad form to pitch oneself as an executive of communications -- or is it communicaTION? -- and get it wrong in the process!
Thanks,
Andy in Omaha