When used within the context of an article or other written content, captions and cutlines not only identify and describe people and events depicted in photos but also provide important summary information about the piece as a whole. Clear, concise captions can pull curious readers further into the page while ensuring that those merely skimming the page can garner the most important information.
How to write good captions
- Generate interest and intrigue. Engage readers.
- Add details that aren’t in the accompanying story.
- Use active verbs and energetic language.
- For every photograph, provide a caption with specific information, if available. Captions accompanying generic or decorative photographs, such as pictures of campus icons, can provide background information or a bit of MU history.
- Be honest and accurate. If using an old photo, identify the date. If using a photo for illustrative rather than documentary purposes, make that clear in your caption.
- Use "from left" rather than "from left to right" when identifying multiple people or things.
- Don’t editorialize. Avoid subjective adjectives. Let your readers decide whether someone or something is beautiful, happy troubled, etc.
- Because readers know you are referring to the photograph, omit phrases such "is shown" or "pictured above."
- Write complete sentences that fill out width of the photo. Try to use present tense, but use past tense to refer to events that preceded the taking of the photo or that are not pictured in the photo.
- Don’t point out the obvious, such as gestures or colors, except when writing alternative text to accompany photos online. Alternative text can be detected by a screen reader and provide photo information to users who are visually impaired. More about accessibility.
- Before publishing the photos online or in print, double-check the photos and captions for accuracy and consistency.