“One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”


If you are not a professional writer, it’s extremely difficult to describe a situation, a person, an animal or just about anything. Instead of using text to describe, it’s much better to insert a picture. That’s why photographs, cartoons, sketches, paintings or graphs are so successful.

When I saw the striking picture depicting a rainbow of parrots, I knew that using text would be useless to describe them. Instead, I decided to write a post about the beauty of the photographic composition and the origin of the phrase, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”

This phrase first appeared in a 1921 ad in Printer’s Ink which was written by publicist Frederick Barnard. Barnard headlined his ad, “One look is worth a thousand words.” He attributed this maxim to “a famous Japanese philosopher.’” Six years later, Barnard revised the saying to read “One picture is worth ten thousand words,” and then republished it in the same magazine as a “Chinese proverb.”

Barnard thought his ploy would give his words added weight. He was right. For a time, Bartlett’s identified Barnard’s line as “a Chinese proverb.” Other sources attributed his proverb to Confucius. The Macmillan Dictionary of Quotations had it both ways. They cited Barnard as the maxim’s author, adding “Ascribed to Chinese origin.”

Enjoy the colorful picture and have a marvelous weekend!

2 thoughts on ““One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words””

  1. “When I saw the striking picture depicting a rainbow of parrots, I knew that using text would be useless to describe them.”

    Writing is always about creating pictures and words are never “useless”, because pictures can be interpreted in so many different ways. (everything is very subjective.)
    E.g. just one word can be even more plain and clearer than just one picture. But it’s true that one picture can be clear and obvious..as well.

    So, I think “a picture is worth a thousand words”, yes. But words and pictures are both sort of a language. And so they are both needed to “describe” this world. All in one I would say: “One word can include a thousand pictures.”

    Thanks for sharing this photo and those words with the internet, best regards from Germany,

    1. Hi Stella:

      You have a good point. I’ll have to admit you have rock solid arguments. Pictures and words are languages used to communicate with one another.

      Thanks for such enlighting comments,

      Omar.-

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