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charticle

noun [countable]

a news article that consists of a chart (= a list, drawing or graph showing information) and only has a small amount of text

'A photo of a giant mushroom cloud that accompanied the charticle likely added editorial context, giving readers a front-and-center visual of what nuclear capable Iran might mean.'

PBS Newshour 4th February 2013

In the early years of the 21st century, we've seen various ways in which new technologies have been used to imbue words with the expressive power of pictures. The wordle, for instance, is a visual depiction of the words in a text which exploits colour, font size and orientation. Kinetic typography goes one step further, and as well as adding aesthetic embellishments, makes words move. But sometimes, it seems that pictures really do speak louder than words, and that there's no substitute for the explanatory power of graphics. To this end, journalists and editors across the globe are periodically deciding that the best way to convey a message is not by writing extensive text, but by presenting information in a format now described as a charticle.

in a charticle, the proportion of text relative to images is the reverse of what would normally be expected in an article

A charticle is an article which presents information in the form of a 'chart', which in practice can adopt the format of a list, graph, table or other kind of diagram. This interesting example from Time magazine shows a 'hall of fame' bar graph depicting the number of times particular personalities have appeared on the cover. As the example illustrates, in a charticle, the proportion of text relative to images is the reverse of what would normally be expected in an article. Conventional news articles usually consist of large blocks of text which are sometimes interspersed with images in order to add visual appeal or convey less important information. Charticles, on the other hand, are primarily composed of images, with text used only sparingly to provide additional information where necessary.

Background – charticle

The word charticle is of course a blend formed from the nouns chart and article. The first occurrence of the term dates back to 1996, when writer and financial journalist Peter Brimelow used it in reference to a style of article he had put together for Forbes magazine. Though there's plenty of evidence for use of the word, especially in publishing and media circles, charticle has yet to be recorded in any established dictionary.

The use of graphics as a more effective means of published communication is by no means a new idea. Underpinning the emergence of the word charticle is a concept now often referred to as an infographic, a visual representation of data intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. The London Underground map is a classic example of an infographic which has been around for some time, and there have been countless others, but new technologies and computer-based tools of recent years have made it possible for infographics to be created much more easily and disseminated around the world, aiding wider recognition of the term and concept.

The word charticle is in fact not the only blend based on the word article. Often used in magazine publishing, the word listicle refers to a piece of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but contains sufficient text to be considered an article. Typical listicles feature a number in their title, classic examples of which are magazine pieces along the lines of '10 Ways to Cook a Chicken' or 'The Top 20 Films of the Last Decade'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 14th May 2013.

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