A message is an instance of linguistic communication. [4]

A message may be of various types: [3]


1   Substance

All messages involve combination into a syntagm.

A destination is a subject for whom a message is intended.

For example:


Good to see you earlier this week - thanks for coming up to New York to chat
with the team, and thanks for your interest in Flatiron.  After circling up
with the team, we don't think there's a good fit here at Flatiron at this

Good luck as you find the next opportunity.

All the best,

1.1   Conceptualization

Conceptualization is the process of determining what to say.

The speaker conceives an intention and selects relevant information in preparation for construction of intended utterance.

Conceptualization outputs a pre-verbal message.

## Intention

In theory, motives range across intentions to convert particular pieces of information, desires to impress listeners with erudition or eloquence, aims to articulate clearly and fluently, and everything in between. All of these are relevant to understand LP.

## Messages

A message is an intention to communicate.

Messages are pre-verbal => Language is separate from thought.

Example: Transient aphasia: the experience of being fully aware of the target idea, yet being unable to find and saying the word ("speechlessness").

The properties of messages (as opposed to their contents) have begun to be understood in research on referential communication.

## Message-making

How do speakers transform a message into a set of communicable meanings?

We can learn by comparing the ways in which speakers of different languages go about forming messages.

One consequence of pre-verbal nature of messages is that speakers cannot tell in advance when a message will give rise to linguistic ambiguity and so speakers do not reliably disambiguate utterances.

For example, if there is a baseball bat and a animal bat in a room, many speakers will talk about either by just calling it a "bat" failing to realize that the listener sees two bats. This is not just due to egocentricity, since speakers do avoid ambiguity when it had perceptual or conceptual basis. If there are two baseball bats of different sizes, speakers will reliably use discriminating adjectives to refer to them.

To frame messages that comprehensible to listeners, speakers may have to draw on experiences that the listeners may need. In many cases though, speakers have to work hard enough merely to transform messages into language that they do not engage in perspective-taking required to reckon with what listeners do and do not know.

  • Concepts are different from abstract linguistic concepts (lemmas) and word forms.

The ability to translate idea into words is made easier by a large vocabulary

1.2   Medium

A medium is ...


From my friend's comment, it sounded like the length of the message had a lot to do with her 'ick' response. Since the UI can affect how long a message appears, I wondered: "Would people react differently to the same message displayed in different UIs?" [1]

She drafted the following message:

Hey! What a show last night! Pretty sure my ears will be ringing for the next week. lol

It was great meeting you. I’m surprised we hadn’t met before; we have so many mutual friends.

We should hangout. Free on Saturday? I know a great coffee shop near Chinatown that has a killer view.


And plopped the message into three surveys, each displaying the message in a different UI, identically inputed. It was either shown in a Facebook Chat window, in Facebook Full Conversation window, or just pasted as plain-text into the survey (the “control” condition). Note that while Full Conversation appears to be email-like, each bit of the message was sent chunk-by-chunk, inputted exactly the same way as in Chat.

In each survey, I presented several scales on which to rate the message: desperation, confidence, boldness, awkwardness, masculinity and femininity.

Ready for action! I posted a link on Twitter and Designer News and used some Javascript to distribute link-clickers across the three surveys; this let me a) get about the same number of responses to each survey and b) hide the fact that there were three different surveys, which was important for scientific integrity.

Received a total of 1320 responses..

Using ANOVA, when she compared the responses across the conditions, with an interesting result: when the message appeared in the Facebook Chat UI, people found Alex to be more desperate, more awkward and less confident, in a statistically significant way.

We all know the words used in a conversation are just one part of the picture; the dynamics of a conversation are a huge portion of communication. Who speaks first? Who fills silences? Who speaks longer? The answers to these transform a discussion dramatically.

The ability to balance the conversation dynamic is a skill. Interpreting the dynamic and responding accordingly is the difference between coming off as “suave” or “awkward”, as “confident” or “trying too hard”.

Offline, we rely on physical and verbal attributes, like body language, as indicators of meaning and social skill. Online, we use different indicators, like the number of messages and message length. Too many messages, or messages too long, can shift power and make the conversation unbalanced and awkward.

Let’s look at Facebook’s Chat UI with that in mind. Each message has its own border, emphasizing the number of messages. Because of the thin width of the chat box, the message wraps over several lines and, because of the small height, it hits the bottom and top of the screen.

Visual result? In Chat, Alex’s messages look longer and more plentiful than in other instances. Since the reader has no significant relationship with Alex prior, their judgement of him is based entirely on this message.

Now, we’ve known for awhile that typography and layout affects our perceptions of the text: “the medium is the message”, Baskerville is more trustworthy than Comic Sans, typed essays receive different grades than handwritten, etc. But in this context, there’s something particularly interesting going on.

Designers must be aware of their role in social UIs and give the same thought to social dynamics that they would to legibility, scalability and others. They must be aware of what social friction they are introducing or reducing, and they need to ask themselves, “How will this UI make my user look to others?” and “How will this UI affect the quality of social interactions?”

2   Production

2.1   Busy people

Assume the reader has received 300 other emails and temporarily forgotten how you met and everything you ever talked about. He has 20 seconds to spend on your email before deciding to handle it later (which may mean never) irrespective of the fact that may indeed care about you. He probably won't click any links or open any attachments. [5]

  • Subject lines should be concrete and descriptive. Bad: "Re: fundraising advice". Good: "Seeking fundraising advice for my startup FlightCaster (as per intro from John Smith)." If you can fit the entire question into the header, just do it and include #eom at the end, which means 'end of message'. [5]
  • Remind him of context: where you met, what exactly you do, and how you met. [5]
  • Limit your entire email to five sentences or less. Make it easy for him to respond immediately from his smartphone. [5]
  • Make your ask explicit. If asking for a meeting provide some time options and ask for a specified length. [5]
  • Respond promptly. [5]

3   Market

4   Security

Cryptography is the study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adversaries.

5   Questions

6   Further reading

7   References

[1](1, 2) Chantal Jandard. Jan 12, 2016. Facebook and How UIs Twist Your Words.
[3]Introduction To Communication Studies
[4]John Searle. Speech Acts.
[5](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Jason Freedman. May 10, 2011. How to Email Busy People.