Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Capitalizing on Captions

A cream puff, soon to be devoured.
Hello, dearies! It’s been a week for ducks here, with rain a near-constant companion for the last several days. Lacking suitable damp-weather gear, I've taken the downpour as a sign to stay in and perfect my cream puff recipe.

In between nibbles, I’m delighting in turning the glossy pages of various baking tomes. The recipes are nearly as inviting as the photographs, and the photographs themselves caught my attention for another reason entirely.


How often do we really pay attention to captions beyond their informational content? Figure 1. A stick-thin model pretends to enjoy a bite of artisan bread, which she will promptly spit out once the camera is off. While you as an author are sensibly focused on providing the best possible narrative, your editor will be on the lookout for appropriate punctuation and capitalization throughout the book; this includes captions.

The CMOS is generous in its treatment of captions, those helpful little accessories that provide the finishing touch to an illustrated work. Captions may range from a few words to a paragraph; the odd incomplete sentence may be concluded with a period to maintain consistency.

Sentence style is recommended for caption capitalization; if a formal title of another work is included, it appears in headline style. If your caption includes an illustration number, that number must be presented as a distinct part, typically through the use of boldface or a period. Italics are needed when locators are included, such as above left or overleaf.

It appears that the rain has ceased for the time being; perhaps a walk around the block is in order, especially after so many cream puffs. While I attempt to burn off a calorie or two, try an experiment. Choose three pictures for your current work-in-progress, and sort out suitable (and suitably capitalized) captions for each. Share your results in the comment section, if you are so inclined. In the meantime, have a lovely week, stay dry, and remember—a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Having fallen into the cream puff trap, the Style Maven is learning to like kale in an attempt to avoid learning to like letting out seams. You can follow her adventures as The Procraftinator here.


  1. Here's my caption: Cream puff ... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

  2. Dear Style Maven, thank you for the two inches I added to my waistline just looking at your cream puffs. And also thank you for clarifying about captions. A caption for a picture for my WIP would read: Searching for Mom. Since I don't know how to put a picture in the comments, let me describe the picture. A little girl stands in front of an old, imposing building with a small satchel at her feet. She is looking into the distance, which is barren and not inviting.

  3. First, dear Style Maven, we deal with the cream puffs. The are my most favoritist (not grammatical but appropriately descriptive) dessert. My daughter has perfected a gluten-free version (a necessity in my family) that is to die for.

    Second, of course, we have captions. This is great information. While I use the CMOS on a fairly regular basis, I never thought of checking it for caption information. Thank you for prompting me to expand my usage of that valuable resource. :-)

    1. Oooops...THEY (not "the") are my most favoritist dessert. Shame on this editor for not proofing her comment.


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