message (communication)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

communication process
A simplified view of the role of the message in the communication process. (Getty Images)


In rhetorical studies and communication studies, the message is the information conveyed by (a) words (in speech or writing), and/or (b) other signs and symbols.

A message (verbal or nonverbal—or both) is the content of the communication process. The originator of the message in the communication process is the sender; the sender conveys the message to a receiver

See Examples and Observations below.

Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • Verbal and Nonverbal Content
    "A message may include verbal content (i.e., written or spoken words, sign language, e-mail, text messages, phone calls, snail-mail, sky-writing, etc.) and will include nonverbal content (meaningful behavior beyond words: e.g., body movement and gestures, eye contact, artifacts and clothing, vocal variety, touch, timing, etc.). Intentionally or not, both verbal and nonverbal content is part of the information that is transferred in a message. If nonverbal cues do not align with the verbal message, ambiguity is introduced even as uncertainty is increased."
    (John O. Burtis and Paul D. Turman, Leadership Communication as Citizenship. Sage, 2010)
  • Communicating Messages
    "Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages. However, communication is effective only when the message is understood and when it stimulates action or encourages the receiver to think in new ways."
    (Courtland L. Bovée, John V. Thill, and Barbara E. Schatzman, Business Communication Essentials. Pearson, 2004)
  • The Message in a Rhetorical Act
    "[D]efined most broadly, rhetoric is the study of all the processes by which people influence each other through symbols, regardless of the intent of the source. A rhetorical act, however, is an intentional, created, polished attempt to overcome the challenges in a given situation with a specific audience on a given issue to achieve a particular end. A rhetorical act creates a message whose shape and form, beginning and end, are stamped on it by one or more human authors with goals for an audience."
    (Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Susan Schultz Huxman, The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Critically, 4th ed. Wadsworth Cengage, 2009)
  • Messages in Classical Rhetoric
    "Both Cicero and Quintilian accepted the Aristotelian notion that a rhetorical message [inventio] consists of effective use of logical, ethical, and pathetic proof. The rhetor who has command of these three persuasive strategies, they held, is in a good position to motivate an audience."
    (J.L. Golden et al., The Rhetoric of Western Thought, 8th ed. Kendall Hunt, 2003)
  • Messages in the Media
    "A well-defined message has two key components. First, it is simple, direct, and concise. Second, it defines the issues on your own terms and in your own words. An example of a well-defined message can be found in the slogan used by Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign in 1980. The central theme projected by the Reagan campaign at every media opportunity was the slogan: 'Are you better off today than you were four years ago?' The simplicity of this message is obvious. But the message also allowed the Reagan campaign to control the terms of the 1980 presidential election debate at every turn, regardless of the nature or complexity of the situation in which it was used."
    (Peter Obstler, "Working With the Media." Fighting Toxics: A Manual for Protecting Your Family, Community, and Workplace, ed. by Gary Cohen and John O'Connor. Island Press, 1990)

    - "People who are highly media literate are able to see much more in a given message. They are more aware of the levels of meaning. This enhances understanding. They are more in charge of programming their own mental codes. This enhances control. They are much more likely to get what they want from the messages. This enhances appreciation. Thus, people operating at higher levels of media literacy fulfill the goals of higher understanding, control, and appreciation."
    (W. James Potter, Media Literacy, 4th ed. Sage, 2008)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "message (communication)." ThoughtCo, Feb. 23, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, February 23). message (communication). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "message (communication)." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 27, 2018).