Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How not to write cutlines

A couple of general rules about the fine art of caption writing:

1) Be extremely wary of using a generic photo to illustrate a specific assertion. (The example from class last week is the correction on the order of: Um, you know that picture of big trucks we ran last week? With the Dope-Addled Truckers Menace Our Kids And Moms  story? Our lawyers want us to point out that we didn't mean to suggest that any of the companies whose trucks you could identify in that photo actually employ dope-addled truckers or anything!)
2) Use the present tense (hed-like) to talk about what's happening inside the frame, past tense for everything else. So if these rising sea levels aren't the climate-change-induced ones menacing these homes, find some other way to talk about it. Or -- here's an idea -- don't waste your time illustrating a syndicated column with a file staff photo.

There's a large, belligerent and well-financed body of people out there intent on destroying the credibility of climate change study and bullying The Meedja into submission whenever someone dares assert the obvious as a fact. Those people don't need our help. Let's avoid giving them any easy shots.

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Anonymous Picky said...

"Such as these" is the giveaway. It's a "similar to" caption of the kind that should always give pause for thought to the page designer.

"A horse similar to the one whose dismemberment and consumption is described in the words wrapping round this totally pointless illustration" - that sort of thing.

6:50 AM, April 07, 2011  
Anonymous raYb said...

Geez, that looks a lot like the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that had to be moved because the ocean was up-close and personal. Was that global warming or was it erosion? And how about all the Emerald Isle, N.C., oceanfront houses that had to be saved? Global warming or erosion? Figure out the cause before you say something silly

7:41 AM, April 07, 2011  
Blogger Strayhorn said...

I saw that photo and my reaction was: "Nags Head? I'm pretty sure that's Kill Devil Hills northside near the Kitty Hawk line (Heyman Street) and the erosion damage they suffered after the northeaster last spring."

9:53 AM, April 07, 2011  

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