Captions for Videos and Live Events

Tips for Captioning Video


In this section, we will become familiar with the standard formatting and grammar conventions of captioning video content. The way video captions are written and formatted is important for audience experience. Captions should include as much of the original dialogue as possible, be accurate, clear and consistent, and identify the speaker as well as other sound, sound effects and music.

Developing an Understanding

Captions need to be accurate and easy to read. They should:
  • Appear at approximately the same time as the audio is happening
  • Be exactly what is being said onscreen, or as close as possible
  • Appear on screen long enough to be read
  • Be limited to no more than two lines per frame
  • Identify who is speaking
  • Identify when more than one person is on screen or when the speaker is not visible
  • Include described sound effects and audible ambient sound when they add to understanding
  • Use punctuation to help clarify meaning
  • Use correct spelling including the names of people and places
  • Include all words, including slang and indicate that other languages/dialects are being spoken
  • Be error free
  • Be consistent in style and presentation

— Modified from the Described and Captioned Media Program Captioning Key (2016)

When done improperly, captions can create confusing, unclear, or unintended meaning:
Man screaming with caption: Screams like a sissy
Close up of Pingu with caption: Noots Internally
Close up of Spock crying with caption: Sobbing mathematically
3 cartoon planes shooting with caption: Pew Pew Pew