Ever since I stepped up my Instagram presence, I have learned that writing captions is an art form. I’ve read innumerable articles on what topics you should write about, how to open up and be vulnerable, how to boost engagement, etc.
What I’ve seen less of are resources on the mechanics behind writing good captions.
Maybe this is my journalism education talking, but solid writing is just as important as the topics you discuss. People can overlook typos, but if your words don’t flow, you lose readers. They’ll skim and scroll away because the experience of reading your post isn’t gratifying. They’ll get to the point and get going.
I have a unique relationship to writing. I’ve written stories ever since I could hold a pencil. I once wrote 24 chapters of a book in middle school about my and my friends dating the members of N’Sync and Disney show stars.
But four years of journalism school, three years of law school (which is basically just writing school, FYI), and almost three years as a legal journalist really have a way of honing one’s writing skills. Guess that book is probably ready for a round of edits, right?
All of this just puts me in a good position to give you some quick tips on what you can do to pack a punch into your captions. I might practice law by day, but the captions I write that are relevant to my coaching provide me with a creative outlet. So I GET IT and I take it just as seriously as you do.
That’s why I’ve listed out a few quick tips to keep in mind before you hit that post button!
1. Delete all your adjectives
Good writing speaks for itself. If you can create a concrete image in someone’s mind, you won’t need to tell them something was “awesome,” “great,” “magical,” etc. Show, don’t tell.
2. Delete “THAT”
“That” is a crutch. Most of the time, you can totally nix the word altogether and what you’re trying to say becomes much clearer.
3. Punch up your verbs
Is anything more boring than the words “is,” “are,” “be,” “being”? Go through all your verbs and see if you can find a word that more accurately conveys what you mean. Instead of saying “Today I went to see my grandmother,” say “Today I visited my grandmother.” You cut down on clunky words so it flows better.
4. Eliminate passive voice
For those who don’t remember what passive voice is, it’s the difference between “I cooked such a delicious meal that it was gobbled up by my family” and “I cooked such a delicious meal that my family gobbled it up.” It creates a better picture for the reader and gives power to the nouns in your captions.
5. Review your pronouns
This is a tip I picked up in law school. It gets tricky to understand who or what you’re talking about when you over rely on words like “she,” “it,” “that” and even “something” and “things.” “Things” is probably the most useless word in the English language. Read through your caption and see if you can replace pronouns with the words they actually refer to and see if that makes it sound clearer.
6. Never use a long word when a short one will do!
This is a journalism school rule that applies to all forms of writing. Don’t force long words into captions to sound smart. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can see right through that. If the word doesn’t naturally fit, you should probably skip it.
A popular example is using “utilize” instead of “use.” They have the meanings close enough to sound like they’re interchangeable, but even if they were, you automatically sound like you’re writing a high school essay with a minimum page count.
7. STOP USING “AND I” FOR PICTURES
This is less about good writing and more about a personal pet peeve, hence the ALL CAPS, but I don’t really care.
This is not a picture of “my friend and I.” It is a picture of “my friend and me.” The way to figure out when to use “and I” is to take the other person out of the equation. Would you say, “This is a picture of I”? No, you would say “This is a picture of me.” Therefore, when someone else enters the frame, you would say, “This is a picture of my friend and me.”
“And I” is still appropriate in plenty of situations. That rule of thumb will keep you within line
And that’s all from me! Did I forget any good tips for caption writing? Drop yours in the comments!