Types or Forms of Communication

There are several forms of communication which can be formal or informal. This includes:

  • Verbal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Intrapersonal communication
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Mass communication.

1. Verbal Communication

Generally, verbal communication involves the use of language in the form of oral communication and words in the form of written communication. 

According to Toppr (2017: np), verbal communication most often refers to communication in the form of spoken words only. In the context of communication, verbal communication covers the spoken and written forms. 

This means that verbal communication may be oral or written. Verbal communication is the most prevalent form of communication but the most misunderstood. When you communicate, the general assumption is that your audience understands your message as intended. 

This is usually not the case in all circumstances. Your words may be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or distorted. Therefore, in verbal communication, keep your messages short, simple, and unambiguous.

Oral Communication is a form of communication that directly or indirectly employs the spoken word to convey ideas or information. This could be through the phone, face-to-face conversations, radio, video, and voice over the Internet. 

In face-to-face communication, it‘s easy to monitor the tone, body language, and reactions to what is said. The effect of eye contact helps you to check if the receiver is listening and the reaction that follows; you can also communicate easily using body language. 

However, in face-to-face communication, it may be difficult to hide your true feelings; your expressions and body language may become a hindrance to the process of communication.

Similarly, telephone communication, which is a form of oral communication, is the most abused. A lot of people do not have good telephone ethics. Although you do not see the other person in a telephone conversation, it is still imperative to display effective speaking and listening skills.

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When on the phone, speak pleasantly. Avoid talking too softly like in a bedroom lovers discussion or loudly like the touts in the motor parks. Your telephone conversation should be clear, polite, and straightforward.

You must remember that oral communication is crucial among human beings. This form of communication can build or destroy relationships, homes, or groups. Although corporate environments mostly use written communication, oral communication still occupies a very important place in organizational communication.

As you progress in your career, studies, or the executive ladder in the organization, the better your oral communication should be. Imagine, your village wants to honor their undergraduate son/daughter in an elaborate ceremony. 

Dignitaries are gathered from different places. At the end of the ceremony, you are requested to close the service with a five minutes speech. What you say, how you say it may take the ceremony to the climax or destroy all the efforts of the community who organized the occasion. 

Your speech should be short, precise, and to the point and should not leave any room for misunderstanding, unhappiness, or regret. Oral communication has ruined marriages. Rabble-rousers thrive on the power of verbal communication.

Advantages of Oral/spoken communication

  • Oral communication provides an avenue for immediate feedback; the receivers can ask questions. The sender can evaluate the effect or result of the message and decisions can be made instantly.
  • Oral communication is very flexible; the sender can make changes to the message based on the result and effect of the message. It is also adaptable to diverse situations.
  • Oral communication saves time, money, and effort.
  • There is a high level of understanding and transparency in oral communication as it is interpersonal.
  • Oral communication is most suited to resolving problems. Conflicts, disputes, and differences can be settled through dialogue.
  • Oral communication is essential for teamwork and group energy. It promotes receptivity and encourages morale among organizational employees.
  • It is suitable for handling private and confidential matters.


  • Oral presentation easily generates misunderstanding and negative responses, especially when the message is poorly presented. Sometimes, messages may be incomplete and may lack essentials.
  • In formal and organized sectors, oral communication is not suitable. An effective business organization is not built on oral communication.
  • Oral communication in long speeches during meetings can consume a lot of productive time.
  • It requires attentiveness and high receptivity on the part of the receivers/audience.
  • Oral communication (such as speeches) is not frequently used as legal records except in investigation work.
  • Spoken communication is influenced by both verbal and non-verbal communication such as tone or body language, which may twist the meaning of your message in the mind of the receiver.

Written Communication, on the other hand, denotes the exchange of information or messages in written form. This constitutes the major form of communication in formal and organized settings. Written communication may be handwritten, inscribed, or printed. 

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This can take the form of letters, reports, bulletins, memos, manuals, electronic mail, etc. for internal communications. Written communications are relatively permanent, stable, and can stand as evidence in dispute. 

Therefore, written communications strongly consider the style of writing, vocabulary, grammar, language, and clarity. It is the most common form of communication in organizations and businesses, generally. Written communications, according to Wambui (2012: 5), have several advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Written Communications

  • Written communication is suitable for complicated and vital instructions, which can be given in a precise and uniform manner.
  • Principles, policies, and rules for running organizations are preserved in written communication.
  • It provides a relatively permanent means of information storage that can be used for future reference. This helps in records management.
  • It assists in a proper delegation of responsibilities; it generates more precise and explicit messages. Authority is transmitted more effectively with a written order than with an oral one.
  • Legal defenses depend more on written communication for accurate records.
  • There is a lesser chance for the message to be misunderstood.
  • Messages can be constructed, re-constructed, edited, and revised many times before being sent.
  • Written communication can easily be duplicated, and backup provided. It provides a record for every message sent and can be saved for later study.
  • The reader can read the information at a pace that suits them.
  • Feedback to written communication is more reliable, well thought out, and polite.

Disadvantages of Written Communication

  • Most times the receivers may not always read the written communication.
  • It can be impersonal, very formal, and unfriendly.
  • Written communication is expensive in terms of stationery, preparation, and delivery of documents.
  • Written communication is time-consuming because feedback is not always immediate and there is no room for direct questions and answers.

2. Non-Verbal Communication

I want you to understand that a lot of what you do to communicate with others is without words at all. Non-verbal communication is achieved without the usual conventional use of words. This form of communication relays messages without oral or written words. 

The messages may be described as wordless. It takes the form of gestures, body language, and symbols. It uses non-verbal cues like signs, symbols, and physical movements to express feelings or convey information. 

A man said, what you say is a vital part of any communication. Surprisingly, what you do not say can be even more important. Non-verbal communication can communicate effectively and accurately without words.

Interestingly, individuals and organizations, send, receive and decode non-verbal communication the same way verbal messages are decoded. Although non-verbal messages are seldom used in corporate environments, they are still instrumental in sending messages to employees. 

Bhasin (2018: 4) says that if an employee is demoralized, a gentle part on his shoulder from one of the executive staff can reawaken him. On the contrary, taunting, making faces, or ignoring him will demoralize the employee further. 

Thus, non-verbal skills play a major role in office culture. Non-verbal communication is an effective way of communicating among humans and animals. To be an effective communicator, your body language, appearance, and tone must align with the words you are trying to convey (Siegman, 1985).

Types of Nonverbal Communication

There are different types of non-verbal communication, which include:

Body language

Body language is commonly employed in communicating messages. It is embedded in different cultures. Your body language can convey simplicity, sincerity, and warmth. These attributes are vital in communication. 

Similarly, handshakes and smiles are deployed in communication to convey trustworthiness, confidence or uncertainty, insincerity, and deceit. Body language is seldom used in official organizational communications. 

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However, the smiles and handshakes of the manager, speak volumes to the employees. Folded arms, crossed legs, hunched shoulders, hands in pockets, and looking down are some of the expressions you deploy to convey different emotional states and should be avoided when giving a presentation or speech. 

Appearing relaxed makes us exert dominance and authority. Take note of public speakers, and observe how relaxed and confident they appear, talking slowly and making positive body movements. Use your arms to emphasize a point and illustrate the message‖ (Barnard, 2018). The use of body language varies across cultures.

Eye contact

Eye contact communicates a lot to others. It is an important channel that regulates the flow of communication. It helps to establish balance and increase your credibility during a presentation. Eye contact can also speak of warmth and interest just like it can repel and discourage.


Gestures are used every day as part of communication tools. Gestures make you appear lively and active. When you speak without any form of gesture, you are likely to be perceived as boring and old school.

When articulated gestures are displayed in your communication, you capture the attention of the audience, make the discussion lively, and the subject will likely be more interesting. 

Your gestures communicate positive or negative reinforcements and can provide active instant feedback from your audience. Gestures are expressed through the arms, legs, hands, heads, and eyes.

Facial expressions

In every culture, the face is a communicator. It is generally believed that the face is the index of the mind. Although this is against Shakespeare‘s thought that, there‘s no art to find the mind‘s construction in the face. Your facial expressions reveal different codes to others. 

According to Ekman, Friesen & Hager (2008: np), the human face is filled with thousands of different expressions. These expressions have been decoded by experts to correspond to hundreds of different emotional states. Your face is a communication tool with the outside world. 

Happiness, trustworthiness, confidence, pretense, surprise, uncertainty, fear, and worries are easily understood from your face. Your emotions expressed through your face convey secure messages to the audience. 

This makes your appearance very important during conversations, presentations, and discussions. Your face can send a silent message without saying a word. A feeling of confidence and uneasiness during an interview can all be seen on your face.

Signs and symbols

Signs and symbols are representations of ideas, physical entities, or a process. They are commonly used in various cultures to communicate different messages and meanings.

For instance, several signs and symbols are used to effectively communicate traffic information. Teachers employ a lot of signs and symbols to teach children concepts and the alphabet.

Visual communication

Effective communication occurs through different forms of visual aids such as maps, posters, charts, diagrams, etc. Such communication that occurs using any visual aids is known as visual communication. Visual aids are used as powerful communication tools all over the world. 

The meaning and interpretation of visual aids have universal appeal. The sign of danger, for instance, means the same wherever it is used. So also, are the stop and no smoking signs. Every culture and language understands these signs and their meaning.

Effective nonverbal communication, according to North (2019: np) includes:

  • Proper attire
  • Good posture
  • Natural gestures
  • Purposeful movement
  • Appropriate eye contact
  • Energy and enthusiasm

3. Intrapersonal Communication

This is communication within yourself. So many times, people talk to themselves, discuss issues and reach decisions within themselves. This is communication that takes place inside you. 

Intrapersonal communication deploys the communicator‘s thoughts, perceptions, culture, and experiences in communicating. Every communication essentially begins from within intrapersonal, interpreting texts, symbols, signs or non-verbal communication, etc.

4. Interpersonal Communication

This is the communication that takes place between two or more people. It is called dyadic communication. Interpersonal communication can be verbal or non-verbal and involves face-to-face communication or telephone conversation. 

Interpersonal communication is vital in every business, personal, and group activity. It takes place among individuals who operate on a relatively common platform. 

Most managers engage in interpersonal communication with their subordinates to show that they care about the employees. 

When managers relate well with the employees, they feel valued; which breaks down the wall of barriers they may have built around themselves and makes communication easier. Interpersonal communication helps to build relationships in the organization and increases the job satisfaction of the workers.

5. Mass Communication

Mass communication refers to avenues or media through which information is shared with the public. This exchange of information with the audience could be simultaneous, instantaneous, or at different times. 

The media of communication with the public include television, radio, books, newspapers, and magazines. Mass communication provides access to information to the viewers, listeners, or readers who may be placed in different geographical locations. 

It enables communicating to the masses at the same time as the television or radio and sometimes the newspapers. It brings to you, views, events, issues, and people from different cultures and environments. 

Mass communication uses specialized media to send messages to a large audience that is mostly anonymous and heterogeneous. The messages for mass communication are homogeneous while the audience is large and heterogeneous.

In conclusion, communication derives from the root word communion, communism, or community, which commonly means to share. Communication is the sharing of information between individuals. 

Success is directly proportionate to your ability to communicate. Communication failures, especially in a professional context, are very costly.

Communication could be classified into verbal communication, non-verbal communication, intrapersonal communication, interpersonal communication, and mass communication. Verbal communication could take the form of oral or written communication. The various types of non-verbal communication are body language, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, signs and symbols, and visual communication.

In your academic journey, personal life, and social and career pursuits, your ability to communicate effectively is a significant asset. Failure in communication does not only lead to academic failure but a jettison of dreams of progress in all areas of life. Through communication, you establish and maintain or distort and destroy relationships.

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