In this article we will discuss about the types of communication.

On the Basis of Relationship or Organisational Structure:

a. Formal Communication:

Formal communication is that which takes place through the formal channels of the organisation structure deliberately and consciously established by the management. It implies the flow of the information along the lines of authority formally established in the enterprise.

Members of the enterprise are expected to communicate with one another strictly as per channels laid down in the structure. For example, when the chief executive issues decisions and instructions to the subordinates, there is a formal communication which flows downward. In the same manner, formal communication flows upward when the subordinate reports to me superior.


Such communications are generally in writing and may take any of the following forms:

(i) Policy manuals

(ii) Procedural and rule books

(iii) Memoranda, papers and orders


(iv) Official meetings

(v) Interviews.

The main advantages of the formal communication are that it helps in the fixation of responsibility and maintaining of authority relationship in the organisation. However, it has certain limitations also.

Formal communication is, generally, time consuming, cumbersome and leads to a good deal of distortion. Formal channels of communication obstruct free and uninterrupted flow of information and are not suitable for upward communication as subordinates will try to present ‘rosy’ information so as to favourably impress the superiors.


b. Informal Communication or Grapevine:

Communication arising out of all those channels of communication that fall outside formal channels is called grapevine. It is built around the social relationship of members of the organisation.

Informal communication does not follow lines of authority as is the case of formal communication. It arises due to the personal needs of the members of an organisation and exists in every organisation. Such communication is usually oral and may be conveyed even by simple glance, gesture, smile or silence.

Informal communication is implicit, spontaneous multidimensional and varied. It operates with much greater speed than formal communication.


It often works in clusters of people, i.e. when one person has some information of interest he passes it on to his informal group and some members of the group may pass it on to another informal group and so on. That is why some writers prefer to call it an ‘organisation’, ‘bush telegraph’ or ‘jungle telegraph’.

An organisation can make effective use of informal channel of communication to strengthen the formal channels of communication.

It serves a very useful purpose in conveying certain information which cannot be transmitted through the official channels. It satisfies the desires of the people, an opportunity to express fears, doubts and grievances. Informal communication also helps to improve managerial decisions as more people are involved in the process of decision­ making.

In spite of many advantages, informal communication has certain weaknesses; Informal communication consists of facts, half-truths, rumours and distorted information. The informal channels of communication may carry completely inaccurate information which may harm rather than help an organisation.


Moreover, it is not possible to fix the responsibility for its origin or flow of information. However, for the efficient working of any organisation both formal and informal communications are required.

On the Basis of Flow or Direction:

1. Downward Communication:

Communication between a superior and subordinate is known as vertical communication. Vertical communication may be downward vertical communication or upward vertical communication.

Downward communication means communication which flows from a superior to a subordinate. It follows the line of authority from the top to the bottom of the organisation hierarchy. Downward communication is a must in any organisation.


It is needed:

(i) To get things done;

(ii) To prepare for changes;

(iii) To discourage lack of understanding and suspicion; and


(iv) To let the members of the organisation develop feeling of pride of being well-informed about all organisational matters.

The important examples of downward communication are:

(i) Notices

(ii) Circulars

(iii) Instructions

(iv) Orders


(v) Letters

(vi) Memos

(vii) Bulletins

(viii) Handbooks

(ix) Annual reports

(r) Loudspeaker announcements


(xi) Group meetings, etc.

2. Upward Communication:

Upward communication means the flow of information from the lower levels of the organisation to the higher levels of authority.

It is passed from subordinate to superior as that from worker to foreman, from foreman to manager, from manager to general manager and from general manager to the chief executive or the board of directors. It includes opinions, ideas, suggestions, complaints, grievances, appeals, reports, etc.

Upward communication is very important as it serves as the feedback on the effectiveness of downward communication. Management is able to know how well its policies, plans and objectives are followed by those working at lower levels of the organisation.

It keeps the management informed about the progress of the work and difficulties faced in performance. On the oasis of upward communication, the management revises its plans and policies and makes further planning.


Upward communication is needed:

(i) To create receptiveness of communication

(ii) To create a sense of belongingness through active participation

(iii) To evaluate the effectiveness of communication

(iv) To increase the morale of employees

(v) To make improvements in managerial decisions


(vi) To co-ordinate efforts

(vii) To know ideas of each individual in the organisation.

Important examples of upward communication are:

(i) Reports

(ii) Meetings

(iii) Interviews


(iv) Conferences

(V) Letters

(vi) Complaints

(vii) Suggestions

(viii) Surveys

(ix) Union publications

(x) Grapevine.

3. Horizontal, Lateral or Sideward Communication:

The transmission of information and understanding between people at the same level of organisation hierarchy is called the horizontal communication. This type of communication is also known as lateral or sideward or crosswise communication.

Usually, it pertains to inter departmental communication, i.e., the communication between two departmental managers working at the same level of organisation or among subordinates working under one boss. Horizontal communication speeds up information and promotes mutual understanding.

It enables the managers working at the same level to exchange information and co-ordinate their activities without referring all matters to the higher level of management. As shown in the diagram of Flow of Communication, supervisor A will often be in communication with supervisor B for co-ordination and integration of various activities. Such communication is essential in all organisations.

The horizontal communication is generally of an informal nature. Whenever a departmental head requires some information from another departmental head, he tends to contact him directly. However, this type of communication can be oral or written.

4. Diagonal Communication:

The transfer of information between people who are neither in the same department nor on the same level of organisation hierarchy is called diagonal communication.

For example, when the Assistant Marketing Manager communicates with the accounts clerk directly, it is the case of diagonal communication. This type of communication increases the organisational efficiency by speeding up information and cutting across departmental barriers.

On the Basis of Media or Expression:

The term communication media refers to the medium used in the transmission of message and mutual understanding. Words, pictures and actions are the media used for exchanging information and understanding between different persons.

The most important medium through which communication takes place is the words. Pictures in the form of charts, models or blue prints and gestures such as smile, silence, twinkling of eyes, etc. are used to make the communication more effective. The communication, purpose, audience, qualities of the communicator and the situation must be considered in selecting the media of communication.

Various media of communication have been studied as under:

1. Written communication

2. Oral communication

3. Gestural or Non-verbal communication.

1. Written Communication:

Communication through words may be in the writing or oral. Written communication implies transmission of message in black and white. It includes diagrams, pictures, graphs, etc. Reports, policies rules, procedures, orders, instructions, agreements, etc. have to be transmitted in writing for efficient running of the organisation.

Written communication ensures that everyone concerned has the same information. It provides a permanent record of communication for future reference. Written instructions are essential when the action called for is vital and complicated. To be effective, written communication should be clear, concise, correct and complete.

It may take the following forms:

(i) Reports

(ii) Circulars

(iii) Magazines

(iv) Manuals

(v) Memoranda

(vi) Newspapers

(vii) Pictures, diagrams, graphs, etc.

(viii) Agreements

(ix) Rule and Procedure books

(x) Orders

(xi) Instructions

(xii) Notice Boards.

Merits or Advantages of Written Communication:

(i) It ensures transmission of information in uniform manner, i.e. everyone concerned has the same information.

(ii) It provides a permanent record of communication for future reference.

(iii) It is an ideal way of transmitting lengthy messages.

(iv) It ensures little risk of unauthorised alteration in the message.

(v) It is the only means of exchanging information at distant places even beyond telephonic range.

(vi) It tends to be complete, clear, precise and correct.

(vii) It can be quoted as a legal evidence in case of any disputes,

(viii) It is suited to convey message to a large number of persons at one and the same time.

Demerits or Disadvantages of Written Communication:

(i) It is expensive.

(ii) It is time consuming.

(iii) It becomes difficult to maintain secrecy about a written communication.

(iv) It is rigid and does not provide any scope for making alterations for inaccuracies that might have crept in.

(v) It is very formal and lacks personal touch.

(vi) It encourages red-tapism and involves so many formalities.

(vii) It may be interpreted in a different manner by different people.

(viii) It often becomes lengthy, when messages are conveyed in writing.

2. Oral Communication:

Oral or verbal communication implies the conveying of message through spoken words. It is face to face communication between individuals and includes communication through telephone, intercom and public speech, etc. In every organisation, a great deal of information is exchanged orally and it is generally preferred to written communication.

Theo Haimann pointed out, “the human voice can impart the message with meaning and shading which even long pages of written words simply cannot convey.” The important feature of oral communication is that real meaning is conveyed by manner or tone of the voice or the facial expressions of the communicator and the communicate.

It may take the following forms depending upon the need and situation:

(i) Face to face talks.

(ii) Telephonic conversation.

(iii) Interviews.

(iv) Meetings.

(v) Lectures.

(vi) Conferences.

(vii) Symposiums.

(viii) Radio talks, T.V. and cinema shows.

(ix) Joint consultations.

(x) Announcements, etc.

Merits or Advantages of Oral Communication:

(i) It is less expensive or economical as compared to written communication.

(ii) It is quicker and saves time.

(iii) It is more effective than written communication.

(iv) It establishes a personal touch and leads to greater understanding.

(v) Misunderstanding or doubts can be removed then and there.

(vi) Immediate reaction, motivation or response of the receiver can be taken.

(vii) It is more flexible and the messages can be changed to suit the needs and response of the receiver.

(viii) It provides as the only means of conveying messages in times of emergencies.

Demerits and Disadvantages of Oral Communication:

Oral communication has the following limitations or draw backs:

(i) It is less reliable.

(ii) It is influenced by self-interest and attitude of the people.

(iii) Oral communication has the tendency of being distorted.

(iv) It provides no record for future reference.

(v) It is not suitable for lengthy message.

(vi) It does not provide sufficient time for thinking before conveying the message.

(vii) It has language problems, one may mean to convey something, but due to his way of speaking, it may convey something else.

(viii) It cannot be used to communicate with people scattered over distant places.

3. Gestural or Non-Verbal Communication:

Communication does not mean merely written or oral messages. It includes everything that may be used to convey meanings from one person to another, e.g., movement of lips or the wink of an eye or the wave of hands may convey more meaning than written or oral words. Expression through body parts is known as gestural or non-verbal communication.

It includes facial expression, movement of lips, wink of an eye, nodding of heads, movement of hands, a sense of humour or a mere silence, etc. Gestural communication is also known as ‘Gesticulation’ and is frequently used as a supplementary method of communication. It helps of make communication effective.