Hand Full, Handful, Palmful.

I have been writing a lot of alt tags lately. And I am happy to do it!

While The Natural Health Writer does not always agree with The Google, placing greater emphasis on alt tags is just the right thing to do.

Alt tags describe images for visually-impaired readers.

Usually, alt tags are poor! Writers (or developers or whomever) forget that the the goal is to describe. I have been leaning into this lately. Describing images in sharp visual detail.

There are SEO steps too, in each alt tag. But more importantly, my goal is to crystallize an image in the mind of anyone who is not seeing it visually.

If they are listening to the article, I want the alt tag to be a different style and perspective from the body copy; something special written to enrich the overall experience of the article.

I’ve been having fun with this lately, because I enjoy descriptive writing.

Hand full vs. Handful vs. Palmful

But of course, writing alt tags has its own challenges. Things come up. Today, an alt tag for this image:

A woman holds a palmful of softgels in a gym.

I am doing my thing, trying to describe the image in detail without going overboard. Along the way, I consider,

  • should I bother saying that the foreground and background are blurred?
  • Should I say the image is of a woman holding the softgels?
  • Should I mention she has red nail polish?
  • Does “gym machines” accurately describe the equipment in the image?
  • Must an alt tag meet the same FDA guidelines as other supplement copy?

But here’s my favorite. Look at the pile of softgels she is holding in the foreground. What would you call that?

I started with “hand full of softgels”. Which got flagged as a spelling error. Hmmm. Oh, so they must be thinking I mean…

“Handful.” Is that technically the correct definition? A “handful of softgels”?  I feel like I haven’t heard “handful” used that way much. But I have heard….

“Palmful.” Oh JEAH!

I like it. Because it feels more accurate than handful to me. Also it contains more data.

Handful has many meanings, some which are not really about a hand-full-of-stuff.

Palmful on the other hand, is specific.

A palmful must be held with the palm facing up. The reader will see an accurate picture with “palmful” in just 7 letters. Sweet.

But I should prolly look it up to see what I can learn about the word “palmful”….


Whaaat? Give me a break.

Try again, at Merriam-Webster:

Much better!

“Palmful: the quantity that would fill a human palm.”

I like it.

So ultimately what I produce is an alt tag for that particular image that uses the word “palmful,” other descriptive language, and a keyword too. That’s some well-tuned alting, if you know what I am sayin’!


This is on writing, and I consider it an eternal truth. When you see an alt tag, you may see a few words. And if its a mediocre alt tag, that’s all it is. Same with writing. See mediocre writing, it is just a few words.

Now when it is exceptional, it is more. Every word that is put down may have a dozen thoughts and decisions behind it. Which is why I am increasingly thinking of rebranding as the AI-writing future advances. I am a writer, sure. But even more, I am a thinker.

And to those who say, “Why are you putting so much thought into an alt tag?” I would reply, I am putting so much thought into it precisely because it is an alt tag. And that is why it brings an SEO advantage that lazy alt tags do not.

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