Here are some tips for writing good cutlines:
ü Is it complete? Is there anything unusual in the picture that is not explained in the cutline?
ü Does it identify? Identification is the basic purpose of a cutline.
ü Does it tell when and
ü Where the picture was shot?
ü Does it tell what is in the picture, not what is in the story? (In other words, don’t repeat the lead of the story.)
ü Does it have the names right? This means are they spelled correctly and in correct order (from left).
ü Is it easy to read? The sentences must be short, direct and in proper sequence.
ü Is it specific? Does it give information on specific points of interest in the picture, or does it merely echo the obvious?
ü Does it have adjectives? Let the reader decide whether the subject is “middle-aged,” “glamorous” and so on. Also, don’t interpret emotions.
ü Does the picture suggest another picture? Going to press without the other picture is like running a story before getting all the facts.
ü Use present tense in the first sentence that gives identification, the who and what in the picture, and what is happening.
ü Use another tense in following sentences and use time element.
ü Be clever, but not cutesy
ü Try for identification, but don’t stress fact it is unknown. Find a label for those pictured.
ü Identify from left to right, and indicated with left if it is not obvious.
ü Use full sentences.
*Some of this comes from the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Newspaper Committee under the leadership of Emmett Dedmon of the Chicago Sun-Times.