How to Write Better Instagram Captions

person using instagram app

Since the fairy godmother of quippy content is nowhere to be found, you’ll have to make do with my advice on writing better Instagram captions for your business.

(To my credit, I am a professional writer with a penchant for bluntness and sass, so at least this post won’t waste your precious time.)

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners I work with as a business coach see writing captions as a chore. Best practices change on a dime, and, thanks to the mysterious algorithm, views are way down (and then they’re up, and then they’re down again).

Even when a reel, carousel, or static post gets decent reach, it gets chewed up, swallowed, and obliterated by the acidic juices of the belly of the social media beast within about 24 hours.

(It’s horrifying, really.)

person using a smartphone to post on instagram
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And because Instagram’s unquenchable thirst for fresh posts keeps you on the content creation hamster wheel, it makes sense to write captions that do something for your business. You want to grab the reader’s attention and share something of actual value/substance without pouring hours of time and energy into each post.

After all, you have a real business to run; unlike influencers, your Instagram presence is a means to an end—not an end in itself. Here are 3 ways to write better Instagram captions.

1. Be concise in captions

You should tell stories and show off your personality in captions, but don’t take 100 words to say something in a social media caption that you could have said in 10. This isn’t a term paper with a minimum word count you’re clawing your way towards. Take out the fluff. You only get 2,200 characters, so you need to use them wisely.

On a related note: use active voice whenever you can. 

In general, the active voice makes your writing stronger, more direct, and, you guessed it, more active. The subject is something, or it does the action of the verb in the sentence. With the passive voice, the subject is acted upon by some other performer of the verb.

(In case you weren’t paying attention, the previous two sentences use the type of voice they describe.) 

source: Grammarly blog

I learn better with examples, so here are two that show the difference between active and passive voice.

Active: I ate all the chocolates.
Passive: All the chocolates were eaten by me.

Active: You made a mistake.
Passive: Mistakes were made.

2. Choose your words carefully

You know that phrase: it’s not what you say, but how you say it? Well, with the written word, what you say matters. Sure, you can change the impact of your message by fiddling with your word choices, but you can’t use inflection in your voice or body language to get your point across.

Reading the caption aloud is a good way to tell whether you’re being clear. Avoid writing sentences you wouldn’t naturally say out loud.

photo of women talking to each other about instagram captions

3. Watch your tone on Instagram

The fact of the matter is I feel like maybe you should write social media captions that are really interesting because when all is said and done, I think they possibly could help your business.

Did that sentence make me sound confident? Or did I sound like a wet blanket? 

(drip, drip)

Using too many filler phrases is a surefire way to come across as unsure and uninspired. Most of the time, these meaningless expressions do nothing but take up space.

  • “at the end of the day”
  • “when all is said and done”
  • “the fact of the matter”
  • “for what it’s worth”
  • “needless to say”
  • “I think/I feel like/possibly/etc.”

“Easy for you to say!”

Despite being a trained writer, I make a ton of mistakes. I get distracted, or I’m multitasking or in a hurry, and my writing prowess goes out the window. Running my captions through a third-party tool saves me every time.

If you’re not a professional writer, the idea of using a separate writing app might seem frivolous. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, writing is not your primary focus.

But because you can’t exactly write social media captions, proposals, reports, or emails without, um…writing, I still think a dedicated spelling and grammar-checking tool is a must. While there are a handful of options available, I recommend Grammarly Premium because a) it’s the one I use, and b) it’s the most popular grammar tool on the market. 

Because I know your eye is always on the bottom line (as it should be), I’ll say right out of the gate that Grammarly does have a free version that gives you access to basic features that will catch punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors. It will also monitor your tone and help you write more concisely.

business owner writing instagram caption

The Premium version costs $12 per month and adds a slew of features that, in my humble opinion, are worth paying for. Here are the ones that save my butt most often:

  • Full-sentence rewrites. If I’ve written something convoluted or wordy, the app will rewrite the whole sentence, and all I have to do is click a button to accept the new version. This saves me so much time. 

    Grammarly rewrote this bullet point to make it more clear. So here I am, a writer, writing a blog post about how to write better captions, and I’m getting checked by the very app I’m writing about… there’s a joke in here somewhere. 😉 
  • Tone suggestions. This one is huge when you’re writing Instagram captions for business. You can tell Grammarly what tone you’re aiming for (diplomatic, friendly, formal, etc.), and the app will scan your caption to see if the words you’ve chosen match the vibe you’re going for. 
  • Inclusive language. You try your best to make everyone feel safe and welcome in your business, but it’s a learning process. I love how the app will catch wording that needs to be more inclusive. For example, if I mention someone being “wheelchair-bound,” Grammarly will suggest I say the person is “a wheelchair user” to be more sensitive.

At the end of the day (sorry; I couldn’t resist!), you need to ensure the Instagram posts you’re working so hard to create get you the visibility and brand recognition you’re aiming for.

While you can’t control the algorithm or prolong the shelf-life of your social media posts, well-written captions will give your content the best chance of making an impact.

What do you think? Comment here (yes, we actually read these)!

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