Winning Captions


If you keep getting rejected by the New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest week after week, your frustration has company.

The article offers some strategies for writing a winning submission. Findings of a quantitative analysis suggest captions should use words uncommon in other entries and should not reference “concrete elements” in the cartoon. Keep them short and exclamation point free, while steering clear of “meta-captions” that refer directly to the contest. Also:

“Patrick House, a neuroscientist from Stanford University and past winner, says captions that usually prevail fall into what he calls the “theory of mind” category, in which the writer projects the characters’ intent and hints at it, but lets readers fill in the blanks.”

(Via Open Culture)

Lisa Dusenbery is the former managing editor of The Rumpus. More from this author →