Writing well is one thing. But for today’s online audience, it’s not enough. When most people see a wall of text in their browser window, they immediately switch off. It’s just too much information for their minds to absorb all at once.
For that reason, breaking up your text with images is generally a good idea. If you look at most online articles, you’ll see that writers invariably chop them up into sections, with relevant images giving users time to pause.
“But,” you might say, “my writing doesn’t need images. It’s already descriptive enough by itself. Plus, I am not referring to anything pictorial, so using images is moot.”
That might all be true, but images still play a critical role for the following reasons:
Stopping the Social Media Scroll
People scroll through social media endlessly. With so much information on offer, they have to be picky about what they consume. Usually, they will only pause to read something if it is in the 99th percentile for novelty and personal interest. Otherwise, they will just continue flicking through their feed.
As a writer, you need to think about how you might stand out in an environment like this. Already, ahead of time, you know that you will struggle if all you offer social media users is a wall of text. Even if it is relevant to them, most will ignore it.
Photos, on the other hand, can stop scrolling in its tracks. Once users see an image of something captivating, they are much more likely to pause and read on.
Try to avoid using stock images. Users are getting used to these, and most will automatically scroll past them if they think they have been regurgitated from somewhere else. Instead, post something genuinely novel and interesting to go along with your writing.
Expand on Statistics
Many times, writers need to cover complex topics such as healthcare, IT and finance. In these situations, prose is sometimes sufficient. However, it can also help to represent statistics pictorially to help readers understand what you are saying.
Images are a great way to highlight your statistical and quantitative arguments. For example, if you want to show what percentage of the world’s forests are going to be cut down in the next century, you could represent this as a tree-decorated pie chart with a red section showing the feeling, and a green chunk for what will remain.
Illustrate Talking Points
You can also use images to illustrate talking points, particularly photos. Let’s say that you are a travel writer and you want to communicate with your audience about your adventures.
Merely describing it is one thing, but actually showing it to them is quite another.
If you take a lot of photos on your phone, learn how to upload photos to iCloud from iPhone apps. This way, you can store a practically infinite number of travel images without having to carry costly memory cards with you.
You can also use graphics that represent your discussion. So, for instance, if you are writing about cell biology and you want to describe a process that occurs in the cell, you might want to include a schematic detailing what chemical reactions take place.
Remember, while text can explain the details, it can never provide the same level of understanding as an image itself. A description of a waterfall is always less visceral than a photo of one.
Break Up the Content
As discussed above, the average attention span is declining. People are no longer able to concentrate on prose in the way they once could, particularly when it is on a computer or smartphone screen.
To remedy this, writers are increasingly turning to images to break up their content. Quality photos, pictures and schematics are easier on the eye and encourage readers to continue to the end of the article.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to include at least one image per 500 words. However, the number of images that you use will depend on the purpose of the article. Naturally, if you are writing about 10 different vacation destinations around the world, you’ll want to use 10 different photos.
Make It More Shareable
If users enjoy your content, they are much more likely to want to share it with friends. In general, rich media makes content more shareable. Readers feel like they are asking less of their friends if they share an article with images compared to one without.
In summary, writers need to get savvy about adding images. There are many benefits and virtually no drawbacks.
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