Encoding in communication: what is encoding in communication?

Encoding is the process of converting ideas or information into words or gestures that will convey meaning.

Understanding encoding in communication

There are many ways to send a message during communication.

Some may elect to transmit information via the spoken word, while other situations will call for information to be conveyed via body language, pictures, symbols, or the written word.

Irrespective of how we communicate, however, encoding will always be a necessary step in the process.

Think of encoding as the act of converting ideas or information into words, gestures, or some other form that conveys meaning.

Encoding is the responsibility of the sender – or the person who transmits the information.

To start the communication process, the sender must first encode their message in such a way that it can be understood by the receiver.

If the sender fails to encode the message properly, the receiver is unable to ascertain the meaning of the message and communication breaks down.

The encoding process

In professional contexts where more formal methods of communication are the norm, the encoding process has three fundamental components.

1 – Selecting a language

Selecting a language to encode the message is intuitive for those who share a common language.

However, when an employee communicates with someone from another country, they may need to slow their speech or enunciate words more clearly to ensure the receiver can decode their message. 

Language may also vary according to the formality of the workplace context.

Communication in the staff lunch room will be more casual than communication to deliver a sales presentation or liaise with others in an important meeting.

2 – Selecting a communication medium

The appropriate communication medium determines the effectiveness of decoding, but with so many options available, choosing the right medium is extremely important. 

Most options fall into one of four categories: speaking, writing, non-verbal cues, and symbols.

The spoken word is an auditory form of communication, while non-verbal cues such as body movements, facial expressions, and touching patterns can be visual, auditory, and tactile.

3 – Selecting an appropriate communication form

The appropriate communication form depends on context.

In other words, the relationship between the sender and receiver and the overall intention or objective of the communication itself.

In a presentation, for example, an employee may use video or graphical illustrations to communicate the key points to a potential client.

In a performance review, the subordinate may nod their head or smile to convey understanding and avoid interrupting their superior.

Oral communication is the most common form and may be face-to-face (interpersonal), speaker-to-audience, group-based, or telephonic.

There are also circumstances in which written forms such as memos, emails, proposals, press releases, and reports are the most suitable option.

Key takeaways

  • Encoding is the process of converting ideas or information into words or gestures that will convey meaning. 
  • Encoding is the responsibility of the sender, otherwise known as the person who transmits the information. If the sender fails to encode the message properly, the receiver is unable to ascertain the meaning of the message and communication fails.
  • In professional contexts where more formal methods of communication are the norm, encoding is comprised of three components. The person transmitting the information must select a language, communication medium, and communication form.

Read Next: Lasswell Communication Model, Linear Model Of Communication.

Connected Communication Models

Aristotle’s Model of Communication

The Aristotle model of communication is a linear model with a focus on public speaking. The Aristotle model of communication was developed by Greek philosopher and orator Aristotle, who proposed the linear model to demonstrate the importance of the speaker and their audience during communication

Communication Cycle

The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

Berlo’s SMCR Model

Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

Helical Model of Communication

The helical model of communication is a framework inspired by the three-dimensional spring-like curve of a helix. It argues communication is cyclical, continuous, non-repetitive, accumulative, and influenced by time and experience.

Lasswell Communication Model

The Lasswell communication model is a linear framework for explaining the communication process through segmentation. Lasswell proposed media propaganda performs three social functions: surveillance, correlation, and transmission. Lasswell believed the media could impact what viewers believed about the information presented.

Modus Tollens

Modus tollens is a deductive argument form and a rule of inference used to make conclusions of arguments and sets of arguments.  Modus tollens argues that if P is true then Q is also true. However, P is false. Therefore Q is also false. Modus tollens as an inference rule dates back to late antiquity where it was taught as part of Aristotelian logic. The first person to describe the rule in detail was Theophrastus, successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school.

Five Cannons of Rhetoric

The five canons of rhetoric were first organized by Roman philosopher Cicero in his treatise De Inventione in around 84 BC. Some 150 years later, Roman rhetorician Quintilian explored each of the five canons in more depth as part of his 12-volume textbook entitled Institutio Oratoria. The work helped the five canons become a major component of rhetorical education well into the medieval period. The five canons of rhetoric comprise a system for understanding powerful and effective communication.

Communication Strategy

A communication strategy framework clarifies how businesses should communicate with their employees, investors, customers, and suppliers. Some of the key elements of an effective communication strategy move around purpose, background, objectives, target audience, messaging, and approach.

Noise if Communication

Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

7 Cs of Communication

The 7Cs of communication is a set of guiding principles on effective communication skills in business, moving around seven principles for effective business communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, complete, coherent, and courteous.

Transactional Model of Communication

The transactional model of communication describes communication as a two-way, interactive process within social, relational, and cultural contexts. The transactional model of communication is best exemplified by two models. Barnlund’s model describes communication as a complex, multi-layered process where the feedback from the sender becomes the message for the receiver. Dance’s helical model is another example, which suggests communication is continuous, dynamic, evolutionary, and non-linear.

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