BUS210 Study Guide

Unit 2: Delivering Your Message

2a. Define language and describe its role in perception and the communication process

  • What are the elements that define language?
  • How does the semantic triangle illustrate the meaning of a word?
  • What are some examples of how our manipulation of language can influence the meaning of what we say?

While language and words are a system we use to communicate with others, they only have meaning when interpreted by the receiver of our message. We can intentionally influence that interpretation by integrating certain words and phrases into our messages, or we can unintentionally affect interpretation due to cultural differences or poor word choices.

Consider ad campaigns that use the words "new", "improved", or "natural." The ways consumers interpret those words may vary. For example, we might view a product noted as "new" as completely new to the product category or our specific location. The manufacturer may mean that this version of the product is new. What does "improved" really mean to each of us? Don't we all have different thresholds by which "improved" could be measured? Someone who only buys organic products might view the word "natural" as fitting their organic lifestyle, while the manufacturer might have only used products found in nature to make the item.

We can manipulate the meaning of our messages simply by choosing specific words. However, the ways our audience interprets those words may not be the same as our intent.

To review the meaning of language, see What is Language?.


2b. Explain how language is shaped by rules and how reality is shaped by language

  • What are the characteristics of primary messages, secondary messages, and auxiliary messages?
  • What are the parts of a message?

There are several components to a message. When we communicate, we share intended content that is delivered verbally and nonverbally. Our messages also include unintended content, which can be misinterpreted based on perceptions of age, gender, mannerisms, and other factors over which we have no control. Additionally, our tone of voice, gestures, posture, or the rate at which we speak all influence the perception of our message by the receiver.

Primary messages include our verbal and nonverbal intent and the words with which we express ourselves. While our meaning may be obvious to us, the receiver may misunderstand our message based on cultural or language differences.

Secondary messages represent our verbal and nonverbal unintentional content. These include the impressions an audience forms of the speaker based on physical characteristics, gender, ethnicity, mannerisms, and other factors over which we have no control. The ways the audience perceives these factors can unintentionally affect their interpretation of our message.

Finally, auxiliary messages refer to the intentional and unintentional ways a primary message is communicated, including tone of voice, posture, and the rate at which we speak. These factors, too, can influence the way our message is interpreted.

For additional review, read Messages.


2c. Develop appropriate strategies for improving verbal communication

  • What are the syntactic, semantic, and contextual rules of language?
  • Why is our reality shaped by our language?
  • What is the difference between denotative meaning and connotative meaning?
  • How does language enable us to organize and classify reality?

Verbal communication is based on five key principles.

The first of these is that communication includes rules. Syntactic rules govern the order of words in a sentence. The English language is flexible when it comes to word order, but some grammatical structures must be followed so that messages can be clear to the audience.

Semantic rules oversee the meaning and interpretation of words. This is separate from the actual mechanics of a word. Finally, contextual rules relate to the meaning of a word based on context and social custom. Some words or phrases can have different meanings depending on the situation they are used in or depending on other cultural factors.

The second key principle is that our language shapes reality. This includes our customs, values, and traditions that affect what is expected of us, both by ourselves and by others. A paradigm, or a clear point of view, forms a framework from which we understand how things work around us.

The third principle is that language is arbitrary, and symbolic language encompasses denotative meaning and connotative meaning. Denotative meaning refers to the commonly-used dictionary meaning of a word, while connotative meaning relates to the emotions a word evokes, both positive and negative.

The fourth principle, that language is abstract, relates to our environment. The tendency to label or invoke a word can distort its meaning by the receiver. When we focus on a concrete term or example, we have a better chance of our audience correctly interpreting our message.

The final principle is that language enables us to organize and classify reality. We use words to make order out of our world, what we see and hear, and the relationship things have to each other.

For more details and review, read Principles of Verbal Communication.


2d. Identify clichés, jargon, slang, and sexist or racist language

  • How can a cliché make communication less effective for your reader or listener?
  • In what kinds of situations is using jargon acceptable?
  • Why might miscommunications occur when using slang?
  • What are examples of sexist and racist language? Why are they inappropriate?

There are many reasons for ineffective communication. We can identify six ways that language can present an obstacle to effective communication.

First, using cliches – words that have lost their effect due to overuse – can make us sound silly or give the impression that we are too lazy to find more meaningful words to convey our message.

Second, using jargon can be confusing to an audience that is unfamiliar with the industry. Before using field-specific wording, learn about your audience to ensure that they understand what you are trying to communicate.

Thirdly, slang refers to words that are new to our language and represent other words in an attempt to appear unconventional or rebellious. Generally, professionals should avoid using slang in their communications and stick with more commonly accepted and understood words.

Fourth, using sexist language, which is discrimination based on gender, or racist language, which discriminates against people of a specific race or ethnic group, is never acceptable. In fact, many organizations have specific policies and practices in place that forbid this kind of behavior, with penalties for violations of these rules.

Fifth, a euphemism is an acceptable word that takes the place of a word that is unacceptable or offensive. An audience generally recognizes the meaning of the word being conveyed and recognizes that the speaker is trying to be discreet. However, this may not always be appreciated or accepted by an audience; therefore, euphemisms should be used sparingly or not at all.

Finally, if you have ever read or heard something that doesn't seem to make sense to you, even if you understand the words, you may be exposed to doublespeak. If used on purpose to obscure meaning, there can be serious consequences. We should make every effort to avoid this strategy and provide our audience with clear and concise wording to ensure effective communication between the sender and receiver.

For a more in-depth review, read Language Can be an Obstacle to Communication.


2e. Employ strategies that emphasize your message

  • How can the use of visual elements improve communication?
  • What are signposts? How are they commonly used?
  • What is the role of internal summaries and foreshadowing in message retention?
  • How can using repetition be an effective communications strategy?

What makes one communicator more intriguing than another one? One factor is the ability of the speaker to hold our attention. Effective speakers use strategies that emphasize their messages and further illustrate their points to keep messages interesting and compelling.

Using visuals such as photographs or videos can show an actual person or event. Video stills can show the relationship between two things or offer a diagram of a process. Bar charts, especially those that use various colors, can depict the number of different variables at separate time periods. A pie chart illustrates the percentages an element possesses, while a line graph shows changes among variables over time. Presenting an actual object, or using your body's motion, can both be used to demonstrate an item's usage or operations.

When choosing which visuals to incorporate into a presentation, the speaker should consider the audience, the nature and complexity of the material being presented, and the time allotted for the presentation.

For a more in-depth review, read Emphasis Strategies.


2f. Critique the effectiveness of messaging in an oral or written presentation

  • Why does using precise words improve understanding?
  • What role can contextual clues play in guiding your audience?
  • What image does the tone of your messages convey?
  • How can you evaluate your audience's understanding?
  • How can you tell when a message no longer needs revision?

The focus of the communications process should be on effectively delivering our message. In evaluating our messages, it is important first to define our terms. Not every member of our audience will understand everything we have to say. Our role is to ensure that the meaning of our words is clear.

Next, we should choose precise wording to paint a clear and accurate picture of what we want to say. Using wording that is unclear or obtuse may cause our message to be lost or misunderstood.

It is also important to consider our audience. We should use words they will understand and provide context clues to follow the presentation easily. Be mindful of the time allotted for your presentation, and be respectful of all audience members.

The tone of our voice also affects audience responsiveness. Practice your presentation, ensure that our emphasis is placed correctly, and observe others' styles for tips and hints to improve your own skills.

Be sure to save time for audience feedback. This can help ensure that your audience has understood your presentation and offer you the chance to provide even further valuable information.

Finally, focus on creating a complete presentation that covers all of the relevant points. Know when more revisions are needed, but also learn how to recognize when the presentation is completed.

For a more detailed review, read Improving Verbal Communication.


Unit 2 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Language
  • Primary messages
  • Secondary messages
  • Auxiliary messages
  • Attention statement
  • Introduction of a message
  • Body of a message
  • Conclusion of a message
  • Residual message
  • Syntactic rules
  • Semantic rules
  • Contextual rules
  • Denotative meaning
  • Connotative meaning
  • Cliche
  • Jargon
  • Slang
  • Visuals
  • Signposts
  • Internal summaries
  • Foreshadowing
  • Repetition
  • Precise words
  • Contextual clues
  • Tone