What I learned: Writing solid cutlines

In this edition of “What I learned,” multimedia editor Jessica Chapa shares her notes on photo cutlines, a session she attended the College Media Association/Associated Collegiate Press national convention in Austin. Thanks, Jessica, for sharing your advice to help move The Shorthorn forward.

Breathing Life Into Your Cutlines  – Kevin Kleine, Barry College

This session was super helpful! For me, the struggle is real when it comes to writing cutlines (I take photos for a reason, y’all), and when I found out there was going to be a session about cutlines, I knew I had to attend it.

Some common issues I see with cutlines is that the sentences are vague and too short.

Before you begin:

  • Interview people for context in your cutlines
  • Get details
  • Get viable quotes to use
  • Make sure you’re getting it written down verbatim
  • Make sure the spelling of the name is correct

Cutlines should have two sentences.

  • First sentence should include:
    • The who, what, when and where
    • Write in present tense
  • Second sentence should include
    • Why and how
    • Background info
    • Can use a quote or extra fact

How to write a good caption:

  • Be specific and try to give as much detail as possible.
  • For sports captions, you can give the scores and info about a particular action in the photo and its effect on the outcome.

The dont’s of writing cutlines:

  • Don’t use the same pattern over and over.
  • Don’t state the obvious- try to add info that’s not in the story.
  • Don’t use cliche cutline phrases like: pictured above, seems to, attempts to.
  • Avoid passive verbs like is, are, was, were.

Note from Beth: What are your thoughts? Add to the conversation by posting below. 


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