Re: What do you put in figure captions

Subject: Re: What do you put in figure captions
From: Dick Margulis <ampersandvirgule -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 22:03:04 -0400


This thread emerges every few months, and it has been a couple of cycles
since I have expressed my minority opinion on the subject, so I guess
I'm due again (for the benefit of people who don't remember to seek out
my pearls of wisdom in the archives on a continual basis <g>).

A figure caption (a short title above the figure, mostly used on
old-fashioned picture pages of pre-1970 newspapers) would be confusing
in this situation.

What you need is a figure legend (a longer description, below or to the
side of the figure) that informs the reader.

Scientific American is my touchstone for legend writing. They do it
right. In fact, they do technical writing and editing right in general
IMHO; and all techwhirlers should be familiar, at least, with the styles
and forms they use, even if you don't find it interesting enough to
subscribe to it. You cannot apply all of them in every situation, but
you can certainly learn from their example.

When writing a legend, especially in the confusing situation you
describe, make the first sentence brief and unique. Write it like a news
lede, so that the reader immediately gets the point. Make it an active
sentence, not just a bland label, if possible.

Technically, make the Figure label and number, together with the lead
sentence, one style (a style that is picked up for the LOF); and make
the remainder of the legend a different style, even though it is the
same font and size. That way the LOF (regardless of what publishing
platform you are using) generates using the figure number and lede
sentence but omits the rest of the long legend.

Here is a hypothetical legend, using pseudo-tags:

<legend><prefix>Figure <chapter_num>-<figure_num>. </prefix>When the
Order Entry screen includes a blank Order Number field, you are entering
a new order and the system will assign an order number.</legend>
<legend_tail> To modify an existing order instead of entering a new
order, press F6 and type the order number in the popup

The information in the legend may duplicate information in a numbered
procedure in the text. That's okay. Different readers learn through
different modalities, as was discussed in a thread a few days ago.

Hope this helps,


John Posada wrote:
> Hello, people...
> I have a Frame book of about 450+ pages and among
> those 450+ pages, I have 270+ images...mostly screen
> shots....
> I want to compose the figure caption
> based on a descriptive format based on the contents
> but I'm outvoted by one or two people around here that
> want me to use the title of the window as the figure
> title, regardless of how redundant they may be.
> The problem is that when I generate the Figure TOC
> (LOF to those in the Frame world), the list doesn't do
> much to help a person find a graphic of a window since
> he may find 12-15 figures listed with the same
> caption.
> I'm looking for ways that you-guys* use to caption
> graphics so that the Figure index is half-way usable.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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