Neural captioners are typically trained to mimic human-generated references without optimizing for any specific communication goal, leading to problems such as the generation of vague captions. In this paper, we show that fine-tuning an out-of-the-box neural captioner with a self-supervised discriminative communication objective helps to recover a plain, visually descriptive language that is more informative about image contents. Given a target image, the system must learn to produce a description that enables an out-of-the-box text-conditioned image retriever to identify such image among a set of candidates. We experiment with the popular ClipCap captioner, also replicating the main results with BLIP. In terms of similarity to ground-truth human descriptions, the captions emerging from discriminative finetuning lag slightly behind those generated by the non-finetuned model, when the latter is trained and tested on the same caption dataset. However, when the model is used without further tuning to generate captions for out-of-domain datasets, our discriminatively-finetuned captioner generates descriptions that resemble human references more than those produced by the same captioner without finetuning. We further show that, on the Conceptual Captions dataset, discriminatively finetuned captions are more helpful than either vanilla ClipCap captions or ground-truth captions for human annotators tasked with an image discrimination task.