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Just how important is hard hitting copy?

There’s no denying the power of imagery to influence how we feel and behave, particularly emotional images. Humans are extremely good at remembering pictures; research conducted in 1970 showed that people were able to remember more than 90% of 2,500 pictures that they saw for ten seconds each, even when tested up to three days later. But does our affinity for images make them more powerful than words?

I would argue, from a writer’s bias, that words too have the ability to trigger actions, sway opinion and influence how we feel. Words can change the way we interpret images and in some cases be just as memorable in their own right.


In 2019, The Guardian’s Editor-In-Chief, Katherine Viner, changed the language the newspaper uses when covering stories about the environment. Feeling that the conventional phrase ‘climate change’ “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity”, she plumped for more robust and emotive terms such as ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ in the hope of using language to grab attention and prompt action.

A small study in the US by neuroanalytics company SPARK Neuro suggests that rebranding ‘climate change’ may indeed affect the way we feel. It looked at how 120 participants responded to six terms, including ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate change’, and found that the former elicited an emotional response up to three times larger than the latter.

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29th March 2022


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