is, it should come as high as possible in the paragraph.
Many times it will be possible to identify people at the
same time the action is described. For example, in the
statement Seaman Apprentice Jay B. McMannus
sounds taps to climax Memorial Day ceremonies . ...
the identification is included as the subject of the action.
Sometimes, however, it may be preferable to use an
impersonal identification (such as A Navy musician
sounds ...) in the first sentence. In that case, the
complete identification should come in the second
The only exception to the ground rule previously
stated is in the case of group identification. When there
are several people to be identified in a photograph, it is
better that you not clutter the first two sentences with a
list of names. This is apt to discourage the reader from
finishing the cutline. The recommended way to handle
a group photograph is that you use an impersonal
identification in the first sentence (such as, A group of
sailors . ..). then list the names later in the cutline. This
achieves complete identification without cluttering the
important first sentence.
The identification itself can be handled in one of
several ways. The idea is to handle it in the most natural
and concise reamer consistent with clarity. The best way
to identify people is by action. If Kip Karuthers is
throwing a pass to Ronnie Gate, it should be obvious
from the photograph which one is passing and which
one is receiving the ball. Thus they are identified by their
activity, and you will not have to use left and right
Another simple manner of identifying people in a
photograph is by obvious contrast. If there are two
sailors and an officer in a photograph, it is not necessary
to identify the officer as being to the left, or in the center.
The officer is well-identified by obvious contrast,
therefore, place identification would be superfluous.
Identification by elimination is slightly more
complex. Suppose there are four people in a photograph.
One of them is receiving a medal from another. These
two are identified by the action. A third person is the
award recipients wife. She is identified by obvious
contrast. Therefore, the fourth person is identified by
For example, the identification in the cutline might
be handled in the following manner:
Lt. Wayne E. Pilot receives the Distinguished
Flying Cross from his squadron leader, Cmdr. William
A. Aviator. Lt. Pilots wife, Gertrude, and Lt. Cmdr.
Thomas V. Hoek, VAP-99 XO, look on.
Finally, there is the traditional left, right, center or
from the left identification. It is not necessary to say
from left to right. This wastes space. If one starts from
the left, there is no place to go but right! Use this type
of identification only when the other means of
identification will not suffice or when there is a chance
of the reader becoming confused.
In cutline identification, avoid bromides, such as
pictured above or shown above. It is apparent to
both the editor and the reader that something is pictured
or shown above the cutline. Even worse are such phrases
as posing for this picture are . .. or smiling for the
camera is . ..
The Background Information
The third component of the cutline is the
background information. This consists of additional
facts or explanations needed to clarify the subject matter
of the photograph. The length of this section of the
cutline depends on two factors mentioned earlier: (1)
where the photograph will be used and (2) how the
photograph will be used.
The amount of background information needed to
explain a photograph of carrier operations to a civilian
reader will obviously be greater than that needed to
explain it to crew members who are participating in such
If a photograph is to accompany a news story, do
not duplicate details used in the story. If the photograph
is to be used alone, the cutline must be complete.
Cutlines prepared for picture stories are similar to
those written for single photographs, except that a story
is told by means of a series of related photographs. In
this case, a main cutline, usually written for the lead or
key photograph of the story, can supply background
information for the entire story.
Although present tense is used to describe the
action, the correct past, present or future tense is used
when presenting background facts related to the action.
However, you should be careful of changing tenses in
the middle of a sentence.
The Credit Line
The last component of the cutline is the credit line.
Most ship and station newspapers use credit lines for