Information Services Office   19.3.2012

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Newsletter No. 394 > Style Speaks > Caption

Caption

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A picture says a thousand words. What about a photo caption?

According to The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), a caption is the explanatory material that appears outside (usually below) an illustration. It will not be anywhere near a thousand words, but there are some commonly accepted editorial conventions regarding a caption. It may consist of a word or two, an incomplete or a complete sentence, several sentences or a combination. But no punctuation is needed after a caption consisting solely of an incomplete sentence. Thus, the following are all examples of photo captions:

Happy reunion

The Vice-Chancellor seen with guests from Cambridge

Professor Wong holds proudly on to the prestigious trophy. Next to him is the president of the awarding authority.

It should be noted that the sentence that serves as a photo caption should be in the present tense, even though the event or action depicted in the photo happened in the past. The first sentence below belongs in the article, while the second is a caption:

Two thousand alumni gathered on the Mall while it rained hard.

Two thousand alumni gather on the Mall while it rains hard.

Editor
www.iso.cuhk.edu.hk/english/features/style-speaks/

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