I Am Not A Telephone Technician: Communication vs. Communications

There is a subtle yet pervasive virus spreading across the campus, and it must be stopped. I am talking, of course, of the misconception that Florida Tech offers a Communications degree. We don’t. We do, however, have an outstanding Strategic Communication degree (both undergraduate and graduate).

The slight difference (-s versus no s) might seem pedantic, but it is more than an irk that would set a grammar Nazi on edge—the difference represents two different fields. As I am a current graduate student of Global Strategic Communication, you can see how I might be a little concerned whether I study communications or communication.

So what exactly is the difference? Quite a lot. Communications is the field of the technical transmission of information, like telephones, radios, and the like. Communication, on the other hand, is the study of how messages are received, interpreted, and an analysis of how meaning is produced through interactions. I study things such as cognitive dissonance theory, Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that “media is the message,” linguistics, strategic communication, development of corporate identity, and intercultural communication. I do not study things like telephone wires and cell towers.

I can’t help but twitch when I hear my fellow classmates and interdisciplinary friends talk about our communications program. To be perfectly honest, aside from a vague inkling that communications deals with the technical aspect of transmitting information, and involves wires, I am not entirely sure what one would study in a communications program.

And so, my dear Florida Tech friends, next time you see the egregious “communications” error, say it loud and say it proud: “Communication! Hold the ‘s,’ please.”


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