Linear Communication: Definition and Examples
Updated August 11, 2022
Companies and businesses can use different types of communication styles and forms to help them attract customers. One type of communication that is often used in advertising and other business practices is linear communication. Understanding what linear communication is, what its main components are and how it differs from other forms of communication may help you identify and use it in your workplace.
In this article, we discuss the meaning of linear communication, list some common communication models and provide examples of how linear communication functions.
What is linear communication?
Linear communication is a type of communication where someone sends a message without getting any feedback from the receiver of the message. This is a one-way type of communication and can be helpful in communicating a message out to a wide range of people all at once. The sender is more prominent than the receiver in this particular model of communication.
Components of communication
All types of communication use several components:
Sender: The sender is the person who creates the message that's sent by linear communication. An author of a newspaper article is an example of a sender.
Receiver: The receiver is the audience of a form of linear communication. If you watch a television show, you're the receiver of that program's message.
Message: A message is the information a sender gives to the receiver. If you write a speech and perform it, the speech is your message.
Channel: The channel is the medium that you use to send your message. If you record a song for someone, you're using the channel of music to communicate.
Encoding: Encoding is the process of converting information into a form of communication that fits your desired channel. If you want to wish someone well during their birthday, writing "happy birthday" on a card is a form of encoding.
Decoding: When someone receives a message, they use the process of decoding to understand and interpret what the speaker means. Reading a company newsletter is an example of decoding a form of linear communication.
Noise: Noise is any interference or unexpected situation that makes it challenging to understand the message that the sender communicates. If you're streaming a sporting event and the image starts to distort, that distortion is a type of communication noise.
What are other types of communication?
Aside from linear communication, there are two other main types of communication:
Interactive communication takes place between two or more people and occurs when everyone in the conversation is both a sender and receiver. In interactive communication, a person sends a message, then the person who receives that message sends information back, taking turns to give and accept messages. Email conversations are a good example of interactive communication.
Transactional communication is similar to interactive communication because everyone communicating is both a sender and receiver of information. The main difference between the two types is that in transactional communication, the participants give and accept information at the same time.
For example, during a conversation, one person may send a message using words while the other person sends a message using nonverbal cues.
Different models of linear communication
There are many different types of models and interpretations of linear communication. Here are a few of the more common types:
The Aristotle model refers to the model of communication that Greek philosopher Aristotle created in 300 B.C. and is one of the older known models of linear communication. It consists of five steps of communication, such as speaker, speech, audience, occasion and effect.
While other steps may change the ultimate effect of the speech, this model of communication primarily focuses on the speaker and theorizes that a message travels in a straight line through the steps.
Lasswell's model is a communication model first introduced by political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1948. It attempts to explain linear communication by answering five questions about the message. These questions are "who," "says what," "in which channel," "to whom" and "to what effect?" This model expands upon Aristotle's and adds the option for different channels of communication.
Shannon and Weaver model
The Shannon and Weaver model is named after two American scholars who developed the model in 1949. It features six communication elements, including information source, transmitter, channel, receiver, destination and noise source. While updates to this model add in feedback and change it to a transactional model, the original model is a form of linear communication.
Berlo's model is a visualization of communication first used by David Berlo in 1960 as an expansion of the Shannon and Weaver model. This model uses four steps that a message travels through, which are source, message, channel and receiver. This model includes both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.
Benefits of linear communication
These are a few advantages to using linear communication:
Linear communication doesn't have any way for someone to respond to it, which can allow the message to travel faster than a transactional or interactive communication. Many organizations use linear communication when they want to quickly reach a large amount of people.
Emergency warnings, update notices and breaking news stories are all forms of linear communication that rely on the model's speed to reach their desired audience.
When there's only one person involved with creating a message to communicate, it may improve your ability to control exactly what the message says. Companies create most forms of linear communication in advance and review the message before sending it. This can give them time to ensure that their message is clear and contains all the relevant information.
Less noise interference
Reducing noise interference can increase the audience's chances of understanding the message and may improve the overall communication experience. When using linear communication, you can control the channel and what you say with limited feedback from other people. This can lower the amount of noise in your message and help you give information with limited interruption or interference.
One key advantage of using linear communication is that the messages are usually fairly easy to understand. The simple format means that the messages are usually concise, which can improve clarity.
That there's no feedback also means that there's a lower chance of the speaker getting distracted or interrupted, which improves their ability to give their desired information.
Examples of linear communication
Here are two examples of linear communication you can consider:
Here's an example of how a presidential candidate might use linear communication:
A presidential candidate decides to record a speech and broadcast it on television. The president wants to give information to an audience, which makes him the sender, the speech his encoded message, the television show his channel and the people watching the broadcast his receivers. While people can watch the candidate's speech, they can't respond to it, which makes his message a form of linear communication.
Here's an example of how a shoe company might use linear communication:
A shoe company has a text message service that informs customers who sign up about current sales at local stores. There is only one sender, the shoe company, and they send messages to the receivers, their customers, from a phone number that doesn't accept replies. The customers can't respond to the sales notification, which means that the communication only travels in a single, linear direction.
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