Quotes on captions

What writers and others say

Quotes on captions

Made you look “[Captions] can be to stories what trailers are to movies — intriguing, compelling previews.” — Monica L. Moses, deputy managing editor/visuals, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Image by Marc Wathieu

“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. Too often, they are the first thing the reader reads … and the last thing the newsroom slaps together.”
— Steve Buttry, director of tailored programs, American Press Institute

“It turns out that pictures can say whatever we want them to say, provided we use the right words. The old writing adage ‘Show don’t tell’ is useless. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but when it’s paired with a caption that deepens, expands, or redefines its meaning, it can be worth a million.”
— Austin Kleon, a writer and artist living in Austin, Texas

“Don’t insult your readers. If you have a photo of an environmentalist standing next to a fence at a toxic dump site, don’t write, ‘John Johnson is standing next to the fence …’”
— Gregg McLachlan, associate managing editor, Simcoe Reformer

“Doctored photographs are the least of our worries. If you want to trick someone with a photograph, there are lots of easy ways to do it. You don’t need Photoshop. You don’t need sophisticated digital photo-manipulation. You don’t need a computer. All you need to do is change the caption.”
— Errol Morris, a filmmaker whose movie “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara” won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004

“[Captions] can be to stories what trailers are to movies — intriguing, compelling previews.”
— Monica L. Moses, deputy managing editor/visuals, Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • Lift Ideas Off the Page

    Reach nonreaders with display copy

    Once you’ve written your headline, David Ogilvy famously said, you’ve spent 80 cents of your advertising dollar. That’s right: Display copy — headlines, captions and callouts, for instance — gets the biggest ROI of everything we write.

    Lift Ideas Off the Page in Dallas

    That’s why I’m often amazed that the same folks who spend hours polishing the analogy in the seventh paragraph of their message toss off a headline in the 17 seconds before happy hour on a Friday afternoon. Most of your readers will never read the seventh paragraph. But many more will read your display copy.

    People don’t read. So how can you reach them with words?

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on Oct. 2-3 in Dallas — you’ll learn how to put your messages where your readers’ eyes really are — to use your display copy to pull readers into your message, make your piece more inviting and even communicate to flippers and skimmers. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Reach “readers” who spend only two minutes — or even just 10 seconds — with your piece.
    • Avoid dropping the piece of display copy that 95% of people read — but that many communicators forget.
    • Run a simple test on your message to ensure that even folks who will not read your message no matter how well you write it still get your key ideas.
    • Make your copy 47% more usable by adding a few simple elements.
    • Pass the Palm Test to make your message look easier to read. Because if it looks easier to read, more people will read it.

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