Communication or communications?

During the week I received my copy of Communication World or CW, the magazine of the International Association of Business Communicators. The back page opinion column was a tongue-in-cheek piece about whether it is correct to use the word communication or communications in relation to my profession.

I laughed when I read it, because my first job in PR 15 years ago was with a consultancy called MACRO Communication, which no longer exists. The directors insisted (and I do agree with them in principle) that communication refers to the process of communicating which is what our jobs are all about, while communications refers to the technology or medium used to convey messages – as in telecommunications. Then I moved to a new company, Howorth Communications, which did include the ‘s’ on the end. I didn’t agree with it but after saying it for a while, I really didn’t care which one was used. That’s how it is with a lot of word usage complaints. Neither is incorrect, language use is flexible and constantly changing, get over it.

That’s really the point that Gerard Braud who wrote the opinion column in CW was making. He notes that academics are actually arguing about this stuff. Proofreaders had vehemently removed the ‘s’ when he’d used it in articles. He was expecting to receive ‘ugly e-mails’ (email or e-mail – there’s another one) from readers about it. But as he says, “In the big picture of our world, we have greater things with which to be concerned.”


5 responses to “Communication or communications?

  1. I read Macro Communication and Howorth Communications as having two separate – albeit similar – meanings. More or less as outlined by the company directors, but with a twist.

    The phrase “Macro Communication” (I’m not going to use all caps here – see below) has a meaning in its own right. You could read it as ‘large scale’ or ‘big picture’ communication. Think of macroeconomics. In this context Macro is an adjective.

    Howorth on the other hand is a proper noun. So Howorth Communications means ‘messages delivered by Howorth”.

    But your point about neither being incorrect stands. And the difference certainly isn’t important.

    As for Macro versus MACRO. I’ve never been comfortable with words spelt out entirely in upper case. You could make a case for upper case letters if the name was said as “Em Ah See Are Oh” but if you say “macro” then it’s lower case or with an initial capital if it is a proper noun.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Bill. I have no idea where the ‘MACRO’ came from, but that’s how it appeared on our business cards! Possibly some amalgamation of founders’ names. I hate it when small business owners do that. IT folk seem particularly prone to it with some wonderfully lame results.

  3. Pingback: You Say Communications, I say Communication | Communications Syllabus - Services linguistiques à Montréal - Language services in Montreal

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  5. 1980’s my college class comm 101 professor told me there was no such word as “communications” . only the word is “communication”. of course that was years ago. seems in modern times new words are created daily. just like there is no such thing as “rpms” it is only “rpm” and correct term. you can have dozen’s of motors turning, but all of them when referenced is “rpm”

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