What Counts as Writing: Captions

I sat in awe as my friend ordered a pickle at Zingerman’s for the sole purpose of captioning her instagram “It’s kind of a big dill,” (pun very much intended). As a form of writing, “the caption” stuck out to me because it of its elevated level of significance in this day and age. When I did reports in elementary and middle school I was always taught that photos needed a caption. However, until recently, if I were to use a picture of a woman sitting in a chair, the caption “Woman sitting in a chair,” would have sufficed.

Now captions are expected to be creative and catchy, with word play as a very much encouraged aspect. The increased amount of effort that goes into captioning truly does effect how much a photo resonates with you. For a semi-goofy example, I follow a lot of food instagram accounts, and I will never forget when the caption on a really good looking bowl of mac-and-cheese was “I hope that one day someone will look at me look at me the same way I look at mac n’ cheese.”

Captions are a unique type of writing because even though they are significantly shorter than most other forms, they often are able to communicate the same message in often a more efficient manner. For example, on father’s day I instagrammed a picture of me and my sister and captioned it “Daddy’s girls <3.” The longer message that the caption was supposed to convey was that my sister and I were at a family dinner on father’s day at my grandparents house and and it was such a beautiful night that we decided to take a picture together to capture the moment. Because of the concise caption and the information that the photo gives the reader/viewer, the longer explanation is unnecessary.

Are short captions taking the place of long articles? Absolutely not. Is one better than the other? Although longer pieces are certainly more respected, there is something to be said for a particularly clever or savvy caption.