One Word: Worth a Thousand Pictures

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Does anyone else feel oppressed by the “tyranny of pictures”?

I do, and I’m fighting back with a new series of posts about words I love. Words that interest, fascinate, and delight me; words that (for me) carry depths of meaning mere pictures can’t duplicate.

One article per word — posted ᴡɪᴛʜᴏᴜᴛ ᴘɪᴄᴛᴜʀᴇs.

Here’s why I’m doing this:

OneWordWhen you write online — say for your blog, or social media — there’s a school of thought that insists you must precede your words with some razzle-dazzle image to capture attention.

Otherwise (they claim), no one will see your stuff. No one will read it. It can’t compete with the “stream” of glitzy images and colorful animations flashing past.

That may or may not be true. The question is whether it’s a game you want to play. Or one that, at any rate, I want to play.

No more. I’ve decided it’s better — some of the time — to post ᴡɪᴛʜᴏᴜᴛ pretty images. Sometimes, one word is worth more than a thousand pictures.

The Problems with Pictures

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a graphic artist, a photographer, an illustrator. No one knows better the power of images to convey ideas. Better yet, I ʟᴏᴠᴇ colorful artwork and don’t intend to stop using it. There are, however, certain problems:

♦ Words are way better than pictures when you want to express precise, complex, or abstract thoughts.

♦ When I have something urgent to say, I too often get bogged down looking for an image to go with it — or trying to create one. So I never get around to expressing that burning thought.

♦ Artist that I am, I’m first and foremost a writer — and writers need readers. I want a high percentage of my readership to consist of people who don’t always or necessarily require pretty pictures as a precondition for reading.

A False Distinction

The distinction between words and pictures is rather artificial, anyway. Writing, in its earliest stages, consisted of pictures. (Wikipedia’s “history of writing” entry gives details about primitive “picture-writing”.) Even today, good writing emphasizes concrete images that paint word-pictures.

In fact, writing that uses vivid imagery to engage and activate a reader’s imagination often will conjure up far better mind-pictures than the paintings or photos we might use instead. That’s why seasoned readers may prefer a traditional novel over the movie version.

Sometimes I may fudge on my “no pictures” resolution for this new post series. Please don’t shoot me if I sometimes use a fancy-font headline or a colorful background. That will depend on my mood and how much time I have.

My point is quite literal: If the word about which I’m writing is “rainbow”, I won’t illustrate it with a cover image of a rainbow! If it’s “magpie”, I won’t ransack MorgueFile-dot-com for magpie photos. (And maybe I won’t use anything eye-catching at all.)

Rainbow and magpie, by the way, are not on my list of words to write about!

Which raises the question: What words are your favorites? Is there any word you consider worth a thousand pictures — or an infinite number of pictures?

If so, please share these in the comments. Maybe I’ll write about them — or better yet, pass along your thoughts about them.

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