Caption Etiquette

Posted 7 years ago by Madeleine Muska

After reading Grammar Girl's latest e-newsletter, "Why Photo Captions May Deserve a Grammatical Pass" I decided to define, what I thought were important, online photo caption rules. Not just as an online copywriter or an email campaign strategist, but as an absolute grammar nut, I feel this is the best set of guidelines when adding captions to your photos online:

Using pronouns is appropriate in the caption as long as the person's name is indicated by other means.
If you were posting pictures of you and friends on Facebook you wouldn't add your name to the caption. You would say, "me" because you are already "tagged" or it's your Facebook photo album, which Facebook identifies for you. If you posted a photo of yourself on your blog, you should use "me," providing your name or pseudonym is indicated somewhere on the same page as the photo. If the photo is posted somewhere that can be pulled into a showcase of photos with captions (making the photo's origin and reference obscured) then the pronoun should be put in parenthesis. For example, "Name (me), other person."

When in doubt, always use "Name (me), other person."

Order of names corresponding to order of placement in photo takes precedence when it's more than 3 people.
The general grammar rule when listing a group is always name yourself last. However, when you're writing your caption this can get confusing when there are a lot of people in the photo. If you have a photo of just you and your Grandfather and your Grandfather is to the right of you, the caption should read, "Grandpa and me." If you have a photo of you, your grandmother and your grandfather and you are on the left, the caption should read, "Grandma, Grandpa and me." However, when it is more than 3 people, respecting the order of placement in the photo is pertinent to maintain clarity. A photo of a lot of people is already confusing, don't make it more complicated than it has to be. Grammar always leans toward clarity.

Images online should never have pronouns in their image tags.
Now, as far as photos online go, the image tags (alt and title) should always read the full names and no pronouns. This maintains clarity and is important for SEO purposes. Also, using full names in the image tags will remove doubt or confusion for people who are not sure who "me" is from a photo having a pronoun in the caption.

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