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.

Concept OverviewEncoding is a crucial process in communication where information or messages are transformed from thoughts, ideas, or concepts into a format that can be transmitted to others. It involves selecting symbols, words, gestures, or other means to convey the intended message effectively.
Key ElementsEncoding in communication includes the following key elements:1. Sender’s Intent: The sender must have a clear purpose or message to communicate.2. Selection of Symbols: Choosing appropriate symbols or codes to represent the message.3. Message Composition: Organizing and structuring the message for clarity and effectiveness.4. Encoding Techniques: Employing various techniques, such as language, writing, gestures, or visuals, based on the medium and audience.
Sender’s IntentThe sender’s intent refers to the specific purpose or message they wish to convey. It serves as the foundation for encoding and guides the selection of symbols or means to express the message accurately.
Selection of SymbolsEncoding involves selecting suitable symbols or codes to represent the message. This can include spoken or written language, non-verbal cues like body language, visuals, or even digital symbols and emojis in digital communication. Choosing the right symbols ensures effective message transmission.
Message CompositionTo ensure clarity and understanding, the sender must organize and structure the message appropriately. This involves arranging words, sentences, or visuals in a logical sequence, considering the message’s context and the receiver’s perspective.
Encoding TechniquesDifferent mediums and audiences may require specific encoding techniques. For instance, verbal communication relies on spoken or written language, while visual communication uses images or graphics. Effective encoding aligns with the chosen medium and the characteristics of the audience.
ImportanceEncoding plays a vital role in communication, as it determines how well a message is conveyed and understood by the receiver. Effective encoding ensures that the message accurately reflects the sender’s intent, minimizing the risk of miscommunication or misinterpretation.
Encoding Challenges– Language Barriers: When the sender and receiver do not share a common language, encoding can be challenging.- Cultural Differences: Encoding must consider cultural nuances and differences to avoid misunderstandings.- Ambiguity: Choosing the wrong symbols or words can lead to ambiguity or confusion in the message.- Technical Limitations: In digital communication, technical issues such as data corruption can affect encoding.

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.

Key Highlights:

  • Encoding in Communication: Encoding is the crucial process of converting ideas or information into words, gestures, or other forms that convey meaning during communication.
  • Various Communication Methods: Communication can take many forms, including spoken words, body language, pictures, symbols, or written words, depending on the context.
  • Sender’s Responsibility: The sender is responsible for encoding the message effectively to ensure the receiver can understand it. Failure in proper encoding can lead to communication breakdown.
  • Components of Encoding: In professional contexts, the encoding process consists of three fundamental components:
    • Selecting a Language: Choosing the appropriate language for communication, considering factors like language barriers and formality.
    • Selecting a Communication Medium: Deciding on the right medium for conveying the message, such as speaking, writing, non-verbal cues, or symbols.
    • Selecting an Appropriate Communication Form: Tailoring the communication form to the context, taking into account the relationship between sender and receiver and the communication’s purpose.
  • Variety of Communication Forms: Communication forms can vary widely, from oral communication (interpersonal, group-based, or telephonic) to written forms like memos, emails, proposals, press releases, and reports.
  • Key Takeaways: The key takeaways include the understanding that encoding is the sender’s responsibility, and it involves selecting a language, communication medium, and communication form. Proper encoding is crucial for effective communication in professional settings.

Applied Encoding Strategies

Business ScenarioProcess ImplicationOutcome
Creating Marketing AdvertisementsDesigning and crafting advertisements to convey product or service information effectively.Clear messaging and brand representation.Increased brand visibility and sales.
Composing Email CorrespondenceComposing email messages to convey information, requests, or updates to colleagues or clients.Professional communication and clarity.Efficient information exchange and collaboration.
Developing Business PresentationsCreating visual and verbal content for presentations to convey key points and ideas to an audience.Engaging and persuasive presentations.Successful communication of ideas and proposals.
Writing Product Descriptions for E-commerceCrafting product descriptions that highlight features, benefits, and unique selling points.Enhanced product presentation and sales pitch.Improved product conversions and customer engagement.
Formulating Sales PitchesCrafting persuasive sales pitches to convince potential clients of the value of a product or service.Effective sales communication and persuasion.Increased sales and client conversions.
Drafting Corporate ReportsWriting comprehensive reports to convey business data, analyses, and recommendations.Clear data presentation and decision support.Informed decision-making and strategy development.
Creating Social Media ContentDeveloping content for social media posts that captures attention and conveys brand messages.Engaging and shareable social media content.Increased brand awareness and online engagement.
Writing Press ReleasesComposing press releases to inform the media and the public about company news and events.Effective communication with the press.Media coverage and public awareness of company updates.
Designing User ManualsCreating user manuals and guides that provide instructions and information about a product or service.User-friendly documentation and support.Enhanced user experience and reduced support queries.
Drafting Job Descriptions and Recruitment MaterialsWriting job descriptions and recruitment materials to attract and inform potential job candidates.Clear job expectations and candidate understanding.Attraction of qualified candidates and successful hires.
Developing Training ModulesDesigning training modules and materials to convey knowledge and skills to employees or learners.Effective knowledge transfer and skill development.Employee competence and improved job performance.
Crafting Customer Support ScriptsFormulating customer support scripts to guide representatives in addressing common customer queries.Consistent and efficient customer support.Enhanced customer satisfaction and issue resolution.
Composing Legal ContractsDrafting legal contracts to convey terms, conditions, and agreements between parties accurately.Legal clarity and contract enforceability.Compliance with legal obligations and dispute prevention.
Creating Website ContentDeveloping website content, including text, images, and multimedia, to convey information and engage visitors.User-friendly website navigation and engagement.Improved online presence and user experience.
Writing Internal Memos and CommunicationsComposing internal memos and communications to inform employees about organizational updates and policies.Efficient internal communication and compliance.Employee awareness and adherence to company guidelines.
Formulating Business LettersWriting formal business letters to convey professional messages, such as requests, proposals, or inquiries.Professional communication and etiquette.Effective communication with external stakeholders.
Crafting Product Labels and PackagingDesigning product labels and packaging to convey product information, branding, and appeal to consumers.Product identification and visual appeal.Attraction of consumers and product recognition.
Drafting Marketing Campaign MessagesCreating marketing campaign messages, slogans, and taglines to convey brand messages and engage the audience.Memorable and impactful marketing communication.Increased brand engagement and campaign success.
Composing Internal Policies and ProceduresWriting internal policies and procedures to communicate guidelines, rules, and expectations within the organization.Organizational compliance and consistency.Employee adherence to company policies and standards.

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.

Horizontal Communication

Horizontal communication, often referred to as lateral communication, is communication that occurs between people at the same organizational level. In this context, communication describes any information that is transmitted between individuals, teams, departments, divisions, or units.

Communication Apprehension

Communication apprehension is a measure of the degree of anxiety someone feels in response to real (or anticipated) communication with another person or people.

Closed-Loop Communication

Closed-loop communication is a simple but effective technique used to avoid misunderstandings during the communication process. Here, the person receiving information repeats it back to the sender to ensure they have understood the message correctly. 

Grapevine In Communication

Grapevine communication describes informal, unstructured, workplace dialogue between employees and superiors. It was first described in the early 1800s after someone observed that the appearance of telegraph wires strung between transmission poles resembled a grapevine.

ASE Model

The ASE model posits that human behavior can be predicted if one studies the intention behind the behavior. It was created by health communication expert Hein de Vries in 1988. The ASE model believes intention and behavior are determined by cognitive variables such as attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. The model also believes that intention predicts behavior such that one’s attitude toward a behavior is influenced by the consequences of that behavior. Three cognitive variables are the primary determinants of whether the intention to perform a new behavior was sustained: attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. Various external variables also influence these factors.

Integrated Marketing Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Social Penetration Theory

Social penetration theory was developed by fellow psychologists Dalmas Taylor and Irwin Altman in their 1973 article Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal Relationships. Social penetration theory (SPT) posits that as a relationship develops, shallow and non-intimate communication evolves and becomes deeper and more intimate.

Hypodermic Needle

The hypodermic needle theory was first proposed by communication theorist Harold Lasswell in his 1927 book Propaganda Technique in the World War. The hypodermic needle theory is a communication model suggesting media messages are inserted into the brains of passive audiences.

7-38-55 Rule

The 7-38-55 rule was created by University of California psychology professor Albert Mehrabian and mentioned in his book Silent Messages.  The 7-38-55 rule describes the multi-faceted way in which people communicate emotions, claiming that 7% of communication occurred via spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and the remaining 55% through body language.

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

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