Cutline Checklist*


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.