How to write compelling captions
Too often, editors crank out captions (aka cutlines) in the 15 minutes before happy hour on a Friday night.
“No task involved in producing a newspaper has a greater disparity between its importance to the reader and its attention from most newsrooms than writing cutlines,” writes Steve Buttry, American Press Institute’s director of tailored programs.… Read the full article
How to sell crisp cutlines to clients who want to include too much
“Help us with captions,” wrote Sue Grabowski, president of Grabowski & Co., in our recent member survey. “Our clients luuuuvvvvv to include long names, titles, etc. How can we make the caption shorter but keep the clients happy?”
Sue, I’d start by reminding clients that the real opportunity with a caption is to communicate a key message, not to identify who’s in the picture.… Read the full article
Startling statistics make compelling leads
Research shows … that nearly half of commuters text and drive … that one in three patients enters the hospital malnourished … and that 66% of women won’t kiss men with moustaches.
Statistics like these grab attention and make your point.
But you don’t have to tell PRSA’s Silver Anvil Award winners. They use statistics to sell their ideas:
From the sad …
AT&T uses startling stats in its release “Nearly Half of Commuters Admit to Texting While Driving”:
Commuters are texting and driving even more than teens — 49%, compared to 43%.… Read the full article
Anecdote makes a great lead
Anecdotes make your messages easier to believe, understand and remember. So use an anecdotal lead whenever possible to illustrate your key idea.
Compress fascinating facts into a creative passage
One of my favorite literary devices is compression of details.
Like squeezing together a lump of coal to make a diamond, compression of details condenses fascinating facts into a passage that’s more than the sum of its parts.
One writer used that approach for this lead for a press release for H&R Block by Fleishman-Hillard/Kansas City:
“Most 8- to 11-year-olds would rather go to school year-round than pay a nickel of ‘allowance tax.’ But pit that nickel against Nickelodeon, and they’d gladly fork it over to protect their tube time.… Read the full article
Three new ways to approach classic writing wisdom
After 50 years on writers’ bookshelves, The Elements of Style — aka “Strunk and White” — still offers perhaps the best collection of techniques for compressing copy:
- Use the active voice.
- Put statements in positive form.
- Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
- Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
- Keep related words together.
- In summaries, keep to one tense.
Newspaper + marker = poetry for Austin Kleon
“Instead of starting with a blank page, poet Austin Kleon grabs a newspaper and a permanent marker and eliminates the words he doesn’t need.”
— NPR’s “Morning Edition”
Talk about writing with an eraser.
Austin Kleon is a writer, cartoonist and designer living in Austin, Texas. He’s the author of Newspaper Blackout, a book of poetry he created by blacking words out of pages of The New York Times with a Sharpie.… Read the full article
Messages a year, that is
Information, these days, is hard to escape. Even formerly message-free spaces now bombard us with data.
Our audience members see messages printed on water cooler cups, embossed into their pizza’s cheese — even tattooed onto human skin.
Recently, a 20-year-old in Omaha, Neb., auctioned off his forehead on eBay.… Read the full article
More information = poorer decisions
“More information doesn’t always improve decision-making; in fact, it can undermine it.”
— Judith H. Hibbard and Ellen Peters, researchers
One of the most complex decisions we ask consumers to make is to choose among health insurance plans.
It’s not uncommon for consumers to have to compare more than 15 plans on each of 10 to 12 factors.… Read the full article
Ignorance may really be bliss
What happens when readers are overloaded with information?
Ralph L. Lowenstein and John C. Merrill, authors of Macromedia: Mission, Message and Morality, write:
… Read the full article
“(T)he more communications we receive, the less each is taken seriously. In a sense, we are experiencing a period of communication inflation in which messages become ‘cheaper’ (of less value) as they become more numerous.