While researching the origin of the quote, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” I discovered several versions of this idea have been used over the years. One writer contributed the phrase to an old Chinese Proverb, another dates it back to Napoleon; others think it originated with a newspaper article written in 1911 by editor, Arthur Brisbane, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Regardless of where it came from, we have heard and read it in different versions over the years.

Nice quote, but I don’t totally agree. Though I love art, beautiful paintings, and illustrations, neglecting the written word has made our imaginations lazy. We scroll past wordy post to find a picture or illustration. We watch the movie instead of reading the book. We settle for the summary or the headlines instead of reading the complete article. When we rely solely on pictures, our imaginations become stale, our dreams are shallow and our speech and writing slides to sub-standard. We tweet, post and text using acronyms and abbreviations–the fewer the words the better.

Words are powerful. Politicians use them to influence voters; motivational speakers encourage and inspire; ministers quote Scripture to spread the Good News and train in godly wisdom, and professors and teachers use words to convey knowledge on a variety of subjects. Some teach their students to read.

My daughter, Sherry, teaches first grade in Manahawkin, New Jersey. One of her greatest rewards comes from helping her students learn to read. Beginners are first introduced to picture books. Over time they graduate to chapter books and soon become absorbed in thick novels. They no longer rely on pictures; they have a complete movie scrolling through their imaginations. What a gift kindergarten and first grade teachers impart. When you teach a child to read, you are giving them the world.

Like those who speak, teach or motivate, writers will be held accountable for the words we publish. We are influencers whether we realize it or not. We speak into the lives of others through the written word. Whether an author of books, a blogger, a tweeter on Twitter or a friend on Facebook, our thoughts, prayers or stories will be read by someone. If we have something to write that is interesting and engaging, our words might even be reread, pondered, enjoyed and taken seriously.

What do your words convey? Do they speak truth? Will they encourage the reader? Will they unite our nation? Will they inspire someone to do the right thing? Does your writing pass the test of Philippians 4:8? “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”


  1. Yes! I recently blogged about sharing our faith and took the quote, “Preach Christ at all times; use words if necessary” to task. Our words are powerful forces for both good and ill. I sometimes doubt ability to reach readers because I am somewhat removed from a culture addicted to tv and online streaming. I love the written word, writing, and am one of those you mentioned who is tasked with the privilege of teaching young children how to read.


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