Show, Don’t Tell: Why Even the Shortest Articles Have a Visual Component

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Wow, writing sure is fun, isn’t it? Sometimes when the mood takes us, it feels like writers could just sit at their computers, journals, even typewriters, and just let the words flow. Except we could be missing something extremely important... a visual component.

If we’re writing to publish on the internet in some way, once that wave of creativity is passed, the urge to just hit publish feels overwhelming. However, the thing we always need to remember for that particular medium is a visual, such as an image or video.

We can write the first listicle ever to win a Pulitzer, but no one’s going to read it unless it has some pictures related to the article to keep people’s attention.

Here’s why all articles, from the tiniest piece of fluff to the longest, drollest article, have some kind of visual component.

The Right Visual Keeps People Interested

It used to be that the most esoteric picture helped with an article’s readability. However, as internet content has evolved, things have changed, and it’s for the better.

2010 study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that while you can use any old picture or visual for your article, it’s not going to make much of a difference. What makes the difference is the relevance of the picture to the content being discussed.

You need to make the images you use relevant to the topic at hand. No one wants to see a stock photo of a grill in your article about barbecuing, but they will like an infographic about the finishing internal temperatures of the meat they’re cooking.

Visual Components Increase Engagement

When it comes to getting people to interact with the clickables on your article, images have the most turnaround over anything, including video, according to Nielsen Norman. Images have a way of sticking with the audience much longer than any other format of media, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

When we see a picture, we get the picture. Our minds are hard-wired to keep pictures into our memories, while the more abstract concept of words is a bit harder to grasp.

So, when a reader looks at an image (hopefully a relevant and helpful one if you’ve followed the above section), you end up providing a lasting image that is correlated to the article that ends up making a reader pay more attention, getting them to hit the share button because they’ve decided you know what you’re talking about.

How Should Visuals Be Presented?

You need to make sure that, as above, your visual component is relevant. You need to make sure that your images add as much to your article as your words do. However, once that’s all set, you need to make sure your picture isn’t disrupting your article.

One of the best ways to ensure this is to follow the rules of good placing. You need to ensure that your relevant and engaging article does not mess with a reader’s natural flow of processing information.

For instance, if you’ve got a page that’s left-aligned (and it should be), making a picture break up that alignment so that they have to wrap around the picture is a terrible mistake. If a reader is checking out your article, making them adjust the way they read the article not only feels unprofessional, it’s just irritating, and a surefire way to increase your bounce rate.


So, make sure that your articles are being written by experts who know and love what they do. They understand the importance of "show don't tell," and they'll choose visual components to illustrate their ideas. They will make sure that your work looks great, reads great, and most importantly, gets results.

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