A guide to writing captions that compel scanners to read your whole story
Ragan.com readers bawled us out for Bill Sweetland’s opinion piece ridiculing editors who write lousy captions. “Quit griping and teach us,” was one reader’s comment, and the general refrain.
We heard you. I’ll set out to explain—partly with a few photos and cutlines—what Ragan editors think we know about photo cutlines. Then maybe we can have a constructive conversation.
The key to writing good cutlines is to consider them as part of a group of editorial elements I call “Scanner Grabbers.” Other Scanner Grabbers are headlines, subheads, kickers, section heads and pull quotes; these elements accomplish two things simultaneously: They get essential information across to the scanner—the person who is merely flipping through the publication or scanning down the Web page—and they try to coax the scanner into reading the article.