But wait, infographics are visual, so why are we talking about writing?
Well, according to an article by Mary Walton of Visme, “Images on their own only tell part of the story … That’s why copy needs to be included in the right proportions … It’s all about the quality of the text.”
Ms. Walton presents seven tips for writing effective infographics, and I recommend you click the link in the first paragraph, because her tips appear in an infographic that conveys her message beautifully.
Write a good headline
Your headline should be short and snappy. (Just like an email subject line.) Use numbers, adjectives, and call-to-action words. Use keywords to make it more likely that your infographic will be found in online searches. And make sure your headline is related to your content. An example: “Try these 3 simple tips to create a better salad.”
Structure your infographic
Just like a longer-form piece, your infographic needs a logical structure. Ms. Walton suggests a title (headline), introduction, section subheadings, labels for charts and graphs, and sources/footnotes. The introduction summarizes what the infographic is all about. Section subheadings call out different topics and move the reader through the piece. Labels briefly describe the visuals. Sources and footnotes are vital, just as they are in any other written piece.
Branding creates context; if infographics are shared without branding, your audience can get lost. As Ms. Walton says, “If that happens, you’ll reach your audience but they won’t know where to go to learn more, losing you potential conversions.” Provide a link to your website, include your logo, and use your organization’s colors and design schemes. You paid for that branding, so make it work for you.
Don’t go crazy with text
Yes, I’m a writer, but I wholeheartedly agree. Ms. Walton recommends an average word count between 150 and 400 words and less text than images. “If there’s too much text in your infographic, it can put readers off … This doesn’t mean that your copy should be minimal, though. You should strike the right balance between providing enough information and being too verbose.”
Introduce your infographic
An introduction introduces an infographic and offers context, explaining the topic covered. Make it brief—no more than 200 words and preferably less. Otherwise, in this era of short attention spans, your audience will leave.
Support the images with explanatory text. Don’t use your text to add anything new to the image or to introduce new ideas. Its purpose is to make sure the reader understands the image. And be brief. It’s almost always possible to find words you can cut.
When you’re writing such a small amount of copy, it’s got to be perfect. The writer Betty Rollin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Rollin), who put in time writing for Vogue (I think it was) said that the more frivolous the topic, the more rigorous her editor was about absolute perfection. Same idea here. Ms. Walton recommends going through your copy several times, looking for a different type of error each time. And proofread blocks of text, rather than the whole thing, if that’s a struggle.
Infographics have become insanely popular, to the joy of many. I can hear some folks say, “This is great. I don’t have to be a writer or hire one.” To which I say, “Hah! You’re not off the hook,” as I think Ms. Walton makes abundantly clear.
Big bonus: an excellent YouTube video, also from Visme, on what makes a good infographic.