Writing a good humour caption

Caption by Laura from Unlikely Explanations. Photo: ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

As those who follow this blog know, I’ve recently started a “Caption this . . .” series. From the number of hits the series is getting, it seems to be popular with readers. Several of you are already participating, but a comment from Kathryn McCullough indicated that although people may be interested, they don’t know how. I’m no expert at writing captions, but after reading a lot of newspaper and magazine cartoons, I’ve figured out why the funny ones work – at least for me. So my top tips are:

Put a twist on the situation

As my “Caption this . . .” photographs are of animals, this is not difficult. Practically anything you say is going to be a twist – a human take on an animal situation.

Choose a voice

Pick one of the characters (animals) to do the “talking”, or choose a “narrator voice”. It doesn’t always work to have several characters having a conversation.

Keep it short(ish) and simple

Think of a comment which describes the situation without over-explaining it. Say what you would say if you made the quip to a friend who knows how you think. Chances are a lot of other people will as well.

Just remember that this is not the New York Times caption contest. I’m not expecting that level of competitiveness. I value each entry I get, even if I don’t choose it as the winner.

Also, you can enter as many times as you wish. So if you have a caption with a good idea, and you later think of a refinement of that caption – post it. I consider each caption individually.

For some additional ideas for caption writing, read this excellent post by John Kinde of Humor Power called 19 Ideas For Writing Funny Cartoon Captions, and Make Your Writing Funny: Creating Humorous Captions For Pictures from the site All Freelance Writing.

So go have fun with this! The current Caption This . . . can be found here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Language, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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13 Comments on “Writing a good humour caption”

  1. October 3, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    I too am enjoying your Caption This series, Lisa. It’s a brilliant idea, and your animal photos are soooo perfect for it.

    Thank you, especially, for the tips above! Off to read the other tips now, maybe get some confidence and inspiration…

    • October 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      Thanks Reggie! There is a lot of humour in nature, isn’t there? I am glad to see that you’ve entered this weeks caption competition.

  2. jacquelincangro
    October 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Great suggestions, Lisa. I’m usually stumped when it comes to these captions. I love the idea of the caption this series.

    • October 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      Maybe it’s just me then that always imagines what animals are saying to each other?! I thought that being a writer, you’d find something like this really easy.

  3. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
    October 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. Great suggestions. I might even try this.

    • October 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      Thanks for reading the post and leaving a comment! 🙂 I do hope you leave a caption on this week’s photo.

  4. Sarita Botha
    October 4, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Love this photo!

  5. October 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Great advice, Lisa! Thank you. Sorry I’m so late reading this. We’ve had a crazy weekened here in Kentucky, so I’m behind. But I don’t doubt you’re getting lots of hits on this series. It’s a great one. The caption I was thinking of for the photo above was, “I swear. It’s gotta be in here somewhere.”

  6. Lu
    October 4, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    This is a really fun series, Lisa 🙂
    I’ve just checked out one of your links – I definitely think that they would come in useful for photo captions in everyday posts i.e as in point 9 (out of 19 Ideas…) – practice even though there isn’t a competition to enter. I might start seeing everyday situations in a far more humorous light! (as pointed out in #19) 🙂

    • October 5, 2011 at 7:26 am #

      Glad you are enjoying it Lu – keep entering! That first article I link to is really good for giving some pointers in the art of caption writing.


  1. Get Creative with a “Caption This” competition at “Notes from Africa” « Grains of Sand - October 24, 2011

    […] And it’s been particularly interesting to see how differently other readers see the same situation, and what background stories they come up with. If you want to give the next one a shot, Lisa offers some useful advice here on How to Write a Good Humour Caption. […]

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