Captions that say exactly nothing

Are you wasting your readers’ time and boring the pants off them? The captions you write are a dead giveaway.

One of the most onerous jobs of the organizational editor is writing captions which actually say something. This must be the case, because I so rarely run across a caption that:

1. Describes what is happening in its picture accurately and interestingly.

2. Shows a real event or action happening.

3. Illustrates some important aspect of the story its picture accompanies.

4. Makes the reader want to read the accompanying story.

It’s amazing how few captions, even those in superior publications, meet these basic standards. Most seem designed to put the reader off. They might as well say, “Don’t bother reading this. It’s the same old crap.”

For example, in a slickly produced, four-color hospital publication, these gems actually found their way into print:

“Thea Fortensky, an Athena resident, is thankful to cardiology nurse Jane Wellmark, R. N., O. C. N., and the staff at_______Hospital for the care she received during her battle with heart disease.”

“Theresa Mensch, D. M. D., is all smiles with her patients.”

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