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Types of captions

Closed captions can be turned on and off by viewers as needed. They get added to videos by a separate captioning file format (e.g. SRT, webVTT, etc.). Depending on the video player, users can adjust the font size and style of closed captions to suit their individual needs.

Open captions always appear in the video because they are part of the video itself. Viewers cannot turn them off. They allow video editors flexibility in placement and style.

Captioning best practices

We recommend signing up for our Captioning training to learn more about the ins and outs of captioning.


Make sure your captions include punctuation, correct spellings of words, and don’t change what the speaker says. Adding or deleting words can change the original meaning of the video’s content.

Note: it is okay to remove filler words like “um” if they don’t contribute to the video’s meaning.

Speaker identification

Tell your viewer who is speaking. Consider using the following formatting when labeling speakers:

  • Bold text
  • >> Speaker Name
  • If the speaker is unknown, use Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Speaker 3, etc. as identifiers

Sound descriptions

Some sounds can have significant impact in the video like a sarcastic tone or music during a joyful moment. Add them to the captions and transcript using the following formatting:

  • Use [ ] to surround the audio description
    • [sarcastically] Sure.
    • [Upbeat music playing]

Recommended resources

Types of transcripts

Basic transcripts provide the text version of audio content in a video. NPR’s interview, For Author Kevin Wilson, Writing Offers A Brief Reprieve From Tourette’s, is a good example of a basic transcript.

Descriptive transcripts also include text description of the visual information presented in the video. Descriptive transcripts are required to provide video content to people who are both Deaf and blind.

Interactive transcripts are time-synchronized allowing users to search the spoken audio of a video. They can play the video from any point by clicking within the interactive transcript. This type of transcript is a feature of some media players. Aimee Mullins’s My 12 Pair of Legs TEDTalk is a good example of an interactive transcript because the words highlight in time with the progression of the video.

Transcript best practices

Speaker identification

The transcript should include speaker identification like [Instructor] or [Dr. Gus]. It should also include non-speech sounds, like [Phone rings], [sneeze], or [classical music].

Sound identification

Some sounds can have significant impact in the video. Add them to the transcript using the following formatting:

  • Use [ ] to surround the sound description
    • [Upbeat music playing]
  • Italics

Time stamps

Less is more when it comes to timestamps in transcripts. While helpful when locating information in the corresponding video, timestamps can become distracting. Consider adding a timestamp when there’s a:

  • Significant change in speaker
  • Topic change
  • Slide change

Title the transcript

Add the video title as the document properties title and the heading 1 of your document. Readers will be able to tell which video corresponds with the transcript.

Recommended tools

Some of these tools use automatic speech recognition, which can be a starting point for your transcript. You must review and correct any errors from the automatic tool because they are never 100% accurate.