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Communication vs. Communications

What’s the Big Deal?

Ever since I began as a student in the field of Communication, I’ve heard people use the term “communications” (with an “s” at the end) interchangeably with “communication” (without an “s”).  At first, I wondered, “What’s the big deal?  They’re pretty much the same, aren’t they?”

Well, after many years of school as well as many years of teaching and working in the field, I can tell you, NO.  They are not the same.  As the Communication Rebel blogger Michelle Mazur writes, “There is a HUGE divide between communication and communications.  Saying there is not is like saying PEZ candy and dark chocolate are the same thing—they’re both candy, right?”[1] They are not the same!

To help students clear up the misconception, I offer the following definitions:

COMMUNICATION: 
  • “How messages are received and interpreted… Communication is about forming relationships with others. A human element.  Communication is something that we do on a daily basis.”   Dr. Wagner, Xavier University[2]
  • “The communicating of information.  The exchange of information between individual, for example, by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs of behavior.” Dr. Larson, University of Utah[3]
  • “Communication is a systemic process in which individuals interact with and through symbols to create and interpret messages” Dr. Julia Wood, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill[4]
COMMUNICATIONS:
  • “The distribution of messages… Communications is a technical term that defines the act of mass communications.  It is things such as radio transmissions and technology.”  Dr. Wagner, Xavier University[5]
  • “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 strategy, for example, advertising, PR, Sales promotion, events…” Dr. Larson, University of Utah[6]

“…Communication is the strategy and creativity.  It is the planning and managing that takes place first, and then communications are employed (through various media, whether the medium is print or Web or whatever) to get those formulated messages across.”  Joshua De Lung, Executive Editor, Relatively Journalizing[7]

References
[1] Mazur, M. (March 1, 2013). The huge difference between communication and communications.  Communication Rebel Blog.  Retrieved 7/22/17 from: https://drmichellemazur.com/2013/03/difference-between-communication-communications.html
[2] Nonis, C. (March 28, 2016). Communication vs. communications. Comm Arts Blog.  Retrieved 7/23/17 from: http://www.xavier.edu/communication-arts-department/2016/03/Communication-vs-CommunicationS.cfml#.WXUpntPyunc
[3] Ndonye, M. M. (2014). Disambiguating the terms “communication” and “communications.” Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya: Academia.edu, pp. 54-61.
[4] Wood, J. T. (2004). Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
[5] Nonis, C. (March 28, 2016). Communication vs. communications. Comm Arts Blog.  Retrieved 7/23/17 from: http://www.xavier.edu/communication-arts-department/2016/03/Communication-vs-CommunicationS.cfml#.WXUpntPyunc
[6] Ndonye, M. M. (2014). Disambiguating the terms “communication” and “communications.” Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya: Academia.edu, pp. 54-61.
[7] De Lung, J. A. (February 25, 2009). Communication vs. communications. Relatively Journalizing: Where the pen is mightier than the sword.  Retrieved on 7/23/17 from: http://joshuadelung.blogspot.com/2009/02/communication-vs-communications-what-is.html.

*Written by Kendra Rivera, Ph.D.; Approved by Department Chair, Fall 2017