What did you look at when you landed on this page? Probably the picture to the right. As you tried to decipher what the Polaroid meant, did you notice anything odd? It’s not captioned. Captioning an image brings clarity. On sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, no picture is posted without a witty phrase underneath. But captions are more than just a witty phrase, they are “workhorses of communication” according to Ann Wylie.
Wylie specializes in capturing audiences’ attentions in order to better communicate her intended messages. Her recent article in Tactics explores why writing a good caption is so important and how to create a good caption.
First, why does anyone care about captions? These short, blurbs lie just beneath the most viewed part of a post – the picture. Because of their proximity to this highly trafficked area, captions receive 16% more attention than the actual text according to Wylie’s research. Its ideal position allows for the caption to send the article’s message while capturing skimmers’ attention.
Now that the pressure is on, Wylie gives her audience some assistance as to how a good caption is written. Capturing every image and video, no matter how insignificant, enables the article to grasp the most amount of viewer attention. However, if the caption is too obvious to the viewer or awkwardly directs the viewer to a certain part of the image, it is not as effective as it could be.
Instead, “captioners” should focus on the message they wish to portray. “Action captions” – a phrase used by Wylie to imply simple sentences and active verbs – are ideal. They give enough of the author’s intent to intrigue a reader, but do not give away everything as to incise the reader.