COPY & CAPTION WRITING

SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

  • Describe sights, sounds, smells, actions, reactions.
  • Use direct quotes.
  • Attribute all quotes.
  • Use specific facts.
  • Use vivid verbs.
  • Use plain language.
    • Say “he said” instead of “he stated.”
    • In quote attribution, use “said,” not commented, observed, stated, yelled, etc.
  • Use precise words.
  • Write to the emotions. Include the senses.
  • Use active voice.
    • (Passive voice) The ball was thrown by the quarterback.
    • (Active voice) The quarterback threw the ball.
  • Make positive statements.
  • Write in the third person.
  • Write in past tense.
  • Tie your conclusion to your lead.
  • Proofread and correct all spelling and grammar errors.
  • Have a copy read-around to get input from others in your class.
  • Avoid writing anything that can tell the story of any other high school somewhere else.
  • Don’t use dates/labels:
    • The 2013-2014 Northstar High School Band.
    • This year, the varsity cheerleaders did many new and exciting routines.
    • This year, the 2013-2014 Lady Gators at Northstar High School…
  • Avoid using clichés such as:
    • Purpose – The purpose of learning history is to find out what happened in the past.
    • Goals – The goals of the English Department were to teach…
    • During – During the year, the students of Northstar High School were interested in…
    • Hard work, dedication, team unit.
  • Worthless Quote
    • “English was a lot of fun. We did lots of different things.”
  • Yes/No Question
    • Do you know what happened in Science this year?
  • Saying nothing
    • Lots of new things happened this year at Northstar High School. The students were together more than ever and they had more school spirit than ever.
  • Editorializing
    • Don’t write your own opinion. Include facts and quotes in your story instead.
  • Avoid writing the obvious.
    • Get behind the scenes with in-depth reporting and research.
  • Never use these words in your yearbook:
    • Numerous
    • Various
    • Many
    • Some
    • Several
    • Few
    • A lot
    • Not many
  • Spell out numbers one through nine.
    • Use Arabic numbers above nine.
    • Spell out numbers that begin your copy.
  • Never use the name of the school, its initials or mascot in any copy or caption, except in competitive situations.
  • Report about this year. Never predict anything about next year.
    • Never let editorial terms creep into copy.
    • Avoid using words such as “beautiful,” “spectacular,” “wonderful,” “seemingly,” “apparently” or “awesome.”
    • Capitalize all proper nouns.
    • Do not classify students into different years or classes (Mary Jones, ‘04 or Junior Matt Dell)
  • Do not invert sentences or verbals. Use active voice, not passive voice.
    • Use “The play was memorable.” Don’t use “Memorable was the word for the play.”
    • Use “The quarterback threw a touchdown.” Don’t use “The touchdown was thrown by the quarterback.”
  • Learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.”
    • Its is possessive. “The dog wagged its tail.”
    • It’s is the contraction for it is. “It’s going to be a great day.”
  • Learn subject-verb agreement and use it correctly.
    • “Everyone said they enjoyed the show,” is incorrect. “Everyone” is singular and “they” is plural.

Contributed by:
Jane Roehrig & Heidi Bryant
Herff Jones Sales Professionals, CA