How to write a caption: 9 steps (with pictures)

How to write a caption: 9 steps (with pictures)
How to write a caption: 9 steps (with pictures)

Captions for tables, figures and images give the reader the context in which the object they are observing fits. It is therefore important to write a good caption for each table, figure and image that you will include in your text.


Part 1 of 2: write the legend

Write a Caption Step 1

Step 1. Be descriptive

This first rule is the most important. Being specific, explain to the reader what is happening in the picture or figure. Why exactly did you include this image? The reader should be able to answer this question after reading your caption.

For example, if you included the image of a field in a biology essay, your caption should describe why that field is important to your discussion

Write a Caption Step 2

Step 2. If you are describing a table or graph, talk about variables

What does each side of the histogram represent? Your reader should get enough information from the legend below the subject line, the legend items next to the graph, and the graph itself to be able to understand its meaning without reading the content of the article.

Write a Caption Step 3

Step 3. Don't be humorous

Unless you are writing humorous paper that includes cartoons, captions should generally be kept serious and concise.

Write a Caption Step 4

Step 4. Be concise

Your caption should be no more than one paragraph long, and in reality, one sentence should be enough, at most. In fact, captions don't even have to be full sentences. For a photo, you can even write something shorter than a sentence, for example: "Stephanie on the Ferris wheel".

Write a Caption Step 5

Step 5. Remove anything that is not strictly necessary

For example, the caption above might read, "Stephanie waving her hand on the green Ferris wheel," but the additional information is not necessary for the reader to understand what is happening in the photo.

Part 2 of 2: Include sources of information

Write a Caption Step 6

Step 1. Cite your source

You will need to do this below the graph or below the table if these are from elsewhere. The way will depend on the style guidelines you need to follow. Below is how to cite sources in different formats.

Write a Caption Step 7

Step 2. Cite using the MLA citation style

This is the Modern Language Association organization. Example: “From Daniel Danger, I Didn't Hear Your Arrival, (New York Museum of Modern Art, 2009) 36. Printed plaque."

Note: You must place the caption before the start of the source (“From…”)

Write a Caption Step 8

Step 3. Cite in APA style

In English, it gives American Psychological Association. Example: “Note (caption). Reproduction of I Didn't Hear Your Arrival (p. 36), Daniel Danger, 2009, New York Museum of Modern Art, 2009. Copyright 2011 by University Press. Reproduced with permission from the author."

Write a Caption Step 9

Step 4. Cite Chicago style

Example: "Source: Daniel Danger, I Didn't Hear Your Arrival, New York Museum of Modern Art, 2009, 36."

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