Why should writers think images?

The reason for writing is to communicate. Whatever the nature of the writing – whether in a novel, a newspaper, a notebook, or anything else (preferably beginning with ‘n’ for this alliterative list) – the purpose is to communicate an idea, a request or a proposal. Even when recording something for our own benefit, we are essentially communicating with ourselves.

But a writer that is communicating to sell, has to face a cold reality. However much we as writers may love words, and the force that they can carry, the vast majority of people prefer images and video for quickly ‘getting the message’. Consider the advert below from VW, and count how many words are spoken or written.


What did you make it? Eight words in total, wasn’t it? (and in German at that). But did you get the message? Oh yes.

Would you have preferred to read a beautifully worded description in English of the features and benefits of VW’s trailer-assist function? Oh no.

So what does this mean? Are we writers redundant? The answer is: it depends on whether we can think visually when writing.

Visual thinking

Talented copywriters include regular indications throughout their copy of images, graphics or videos that should accompany the words – that is one of the hallmarks of quality copywriting. Because without that ability to think of the big picture, communication will be weakened and tend to be stuffy.

Images also hold a reader’s attention throughout a longer piece of writing as it helps to vary the cognitive process and make the read more enjoyable. And that’s a critical requirement in this age of information overload, with shortened attention spans caused by the sheer pace of information supply.

Communication is the intention. Writers must not write for writing’s sake, they must write to communicate. And in the world of commerce, they must write to sell. If a picture says it better, let a picture be used. If a video will secure the order, let a video be shot.

At the heart of every communication is a concept – a theme, an approach, and a line of persuasion. This is where the creative copywriter’s place remains unchallenged. Because those concepts still have to be thought of, however they are conveyed.

The creative copywriter creates a powerful message and then communicates (in writing!) the way that it should be conveyed – in words, pictures, video, or a mix of them all.

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