Cutlines or captions?

This blog has occasionally discussed the writing of cutlines, with examples both good and not so good. And that’s the word I have used most of the time: cutlines. I even have a category and tag for it.

Lately, I’ve been wondering whether “cutline” is destined for a list of antiquated terms (like these) heard in print-centric newsrooms. Is “cutline” showing its age?

Early on in my editing courses, I describe the many duties and responsibilities associated with editing the news. When I get to cutlines, I am always careful to define that term for students, many of whom have never heard it until that moment. When they understand that cutlines are those bits of text that accompany photos, the students get it: “Oh yeah, captions.”

The information that accompanies a photograph is still important. Good editors use that information to connect the image to the story. They avoid the cliche, the pun and the obvious. Good editors also use that information in a sequence to create an effective slideshow online.

So yes, the form still matters. But does the word? Is it time to search for “cutline” and replace it with “caption”?