How to Create Image Captions that People Can Actually Read

People often pick the wrong font-color when creating image captions, or when pairing the color of a text with the color of its background in general. Doing this can make your text almost completely illegible. At the very least, this means people will struggle to read what you wrote and become annoyed. More likely, they will just decide to not read it.

Fortunately, this issue is something which is easy to fix. The following examples will show you which common mistakes to avoid, and which guidelines you should follow in order to make your texts and image captions readable and aesthetically pleasing.

 

What NOT to do

Avoid placing light-colored text on a light background:

 

Similarly, avoid placing dark-colored text on a dark background:

 

Avoid relying only on color contrasts between the text and the background to ensure readability:

 

Doing this generally leads to text which is annoying to read, and which can be illegible to color blind people in some cases. It can work sometimes if you know what you’re doing, but you’re almost always better off not relying on it.

 

What you SHOULD do

Rely primarily on a light-dark contrast. For example, you can pair a dark-colored text with a light background:

 

You can also pair a light-colored text with a dark background:

 

If readability is your main concern, or if the background color is not consistent throughout, use a white text with a black outline, which can be easily read on any background:

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Create a contrast in brightness between the text and the background; avoid light texts on a light background, or dark texts on a dark background.
  • Don’t rely only on color contrasts between the text and the background to achieve readability.
  • If readability is your main concern, the best option is to use white text with a black outline, as it is legible on all backgrounds.

 


How to Catch Mistakes When Proofreading Texts

Catching mistakes when proofreading texts.

 

Did you ever spend hours going over a document again and again, and found yourself automatically skipping over whole words and sentences, because you already read it so many times you that brain just goes on autopilot?

Proofreading is an important but tedious part of writing. The problem is that since your brain already knows what to expect, it tends to autocomplete texts, and show you what it thinks should be there, rather than what is actually there. While there is no perfect solution to  fixing this, there are some tips which will help you proofread texts more effectively. They all share the same overall goal: to trick your brain into thinking that the text you’re encountering is new, which allows you to avoid the ‘autopilot mode’ that prevents you from noticing your mistakes.

 

Change the font

Changing the font is one of the easiest ways to make a text look distinctly different. The choice of font is up to you; in general, the more distinct the font, and the more different it is from the original font, the better. However, make sure to account for legibility, and use something that is convenient for you to read.

Two suggestions for possible fonts are:

  • Comic Sans– a highly-informal font, which works great because it looks so distinct from anything you might write in. (Note: if you are already writing professional texts in Comic Sans, stop.)
  • DPCustomMono2– this font was developed by the proofreading community, in order to help readers spot common typographical errors.

 

Sample fonts for proofreading texts Arial, Times New Roman, Comic Sans MS, and DPCustomMono2.

 

Read it aloud

Read the paper aloud to yourself. This is especially useful in spotting problems with the flow of the text, since it roughly shows you what the text will sound like to the person reading it. If you can find someone to read it to, that can also help.

 

Have it read to you

Having someone read the text to you is another great way to spot errors. The easiest way to do this is by having your computer read it aloud. There are several methods for doing this, and your choice should depend on the length of the text and your personal preferences. The most common methods are:

  • Online software- an easy plug-and-play solution, there are a lot of free options that you can take advantage of (such as Google Translate).
  • Downloadable software- search for “speech synthesizer” or “text to speech” software.
  • Built-in word processor/operating system function- to figure out whether this option is available to you and how to activate it, simply look up the name of your word processor/OS together with the relevant key words (e.g. “text to speech”).

 

Change the environment

This is less convenient than changing the font, but changing the environment in which you read the text can also help. For example, if you originally wrote the paper on a laptop in your room, you can print it out and read it outside, or go work on a desktop in the library.

Another option is reading it in a different software. For example, if you wrote it in Word, export the draft to PDF and read it like that.

 

Give it time

The best solution is of course to wait as much time as possible between the writing stage and the proofreading stage. Doing other things in between, especially those that involve writing, can also help.

While it might not always be possible to wait a lot of time between writing and proofreading, even a good night’s sleep can significantly help. If nothing else, even a short break can help clear your head.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Catching mistakes at the proofreading stage is difficult because you’re already familiar with the text, so your brain goes on a sort of autopilot mode, and misses obvious things.
  • To avoid this, there are things you can do to help trick your brain into thinking that the text you’re reading is new.
  • These methods include changing the font, changing the reading environment, reading the text aloud, and having the text read to you (generally by a computer).
  • In addition, taking time off between the writing and proofreading stage can also help, even if it’s only a small amount of time.

 


The Spotlight Effect: How to Stop Being So Self Conscious All the Time

The spotlight effect is a phenomenon which causes us to think that we are being observed and noticed by others more than we actually are.

This occurs because we naturally see everything through our own point of view first, so we struggle to imagine how we look through other people’s eyes. Essentially, we forget that while we are the focus of our own inner world, we are not the focus of everyone else’s.

This article will show you when the spotlight effect manifests in your everyday life, why it affects you, and what you can do to reduce its impact and become more self-confident.

 

The spotlight effect: thinking others are more aware of what you do than they actually are.

 

Examples of the spotlight effect

We all encounter this effect in our life, and research found that it occurs in a wide variety of situations:

  • One study showed that people overestimate how noticeable their clothing is to other people. Interestingly, this occurred both when people were wearing an embarrassing T-shirt, as well as when they were wearing a flattering T-shirt. (These findings were later corroborated in a follow-up study).
  • The same study also showed that people overestimate how memorable what they say is to other people (during a discussion). Once again, this effect appeared both for their positive contributions (e.g. cases where they made a good point), as well as for their negative contributions (e.g. cases where they offended someone).
  • Another study showed that students significantly overestimate how noticeable variations in their looks and physical attractiveness are to their classmates. As the researchers put it: “The blemishes and cowlicks that are so noticeable and vexatious to oneself are often lost on all but the most attentive observers.”
  • This study also showed that people overestimate how much other people notice their athletic accomplishments, as well as their performance in a videogame.
  • A study on the spotlight effect among minorities showed that members of underrepresented groups feel targeted whenever a discussion relating to their group is brought up. Unsurprisingly, this effect is stronger when they are the only member of their group in the crowd.

 

Why it happens

This cognitive bias is similar to the illusion of transparency, which is our tendency to overestimate how well other people can discern our emotional state. Both occur because when we make judgments regarding how other people see us, we suffer from an egocentric bias, or a tendency to anchor other people’s viewpoint to our own. As one of the premier papers on the topic puts it:

Both the spotlight effect and illusion of transparency appear to derive from the same anchoring-and-adjustment mechanism. People are often quite focused on what they are doing (the spotlight effect) or what they are feeling (the illusion of transparency). To be sure, they realize that others are typically less attentive to their actions or have less access to their internal states than they themselves, and they take that realization into account when trying to anticipate how they appear to others. As is typically the case with such anchoring-and-adjustment processes, however, the adjustment is insufficient… and so people end up believing that the perspective of others is more like their own than is actually the case.

 

How to be less self conscious

While being aware of this phenomenon won’t make it disappear completely, it can certainly help reduce the negative impact that it has on you.

By understanding when and and why the spotlight effect occurs and how it affects you, you can make sure it won’t influence your thoughts and feelings as much. Next time you are feeling self conscious about some minor negative thing, whether it’s something stupid that you said, an embarrassing shirt that you wore, a bad hair day, or anything else, remember: odds are that almost nobody else noticed it. Even if someone did, they probably don’t care about it nearly as much as you do, and are pretty unlikely to remember it in the long-run.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • The spotlight effect is a psychological phenomenon which makes us think that we are being observed and noticed by other people more than we actually are.
  • This occurs due to an egocentric bias, which is our tendency to anchor other people’s viewpoint to our own.
  • Because of this, we tend to think that people notice and care about every little negative thing about us, from a bad hair day to something nonsensical we said, when in reality they generally don’t.
  • Whenever you feel self-conscious about something, remember that other people probably don’t notice it or care about it nearly as much as you do.