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Wireless systems where the nodes operate on batteries so that energy consumption must be minimized while satisfying given throughput and delay requirements are considered. In this context, the best modulation strategy to minimize the total energy consumption required to send a given number of bits is analyzed. The total energy consumption includes both the transmission energy and the circuit energy consumption. For uncoded systems, by optimizing the transmission time and the modulation parameters, it is shown that up to 80% energy savings is achievable over nonoptimized systems. For coded systems, it is shown that the benefit of coding varies with the transmission distance and the underlying modulation schemes.