5 Tips for Great Captions

One of the most essential tasks of a closed captioner is to remember the people who benefit from our work.

Hercce are five simple yet effective tips for great closed captions.

  • Never use the past tense when describing sounds. Captions should be synchronized with the sound and are therefore in the present tense.



  • For off-screen sound effects, it is not necessary to repeat the source of the sound if it is making the same sound a few captions later.


First Caption                                         Second Caption

[dog yelping]                                        [yelping continues]

  • When describing an abrupt sound, use the third person verb form.



When describing a sustained sound, use the present participle form of the verb.



  • The word “sound” is not necessary, as the viewer already know that the terms in brackets are sound effects.


[projector] instead of [sound of projector]

[glass breaking] instead of [sound of glass breaking]

  • Avoid dull captions. [door creaks] is more descriptive than [door opens]. The idea is to communicate the sound and not what it signifies.


[plate shatters] instead of [plate breaks].

[ambulance siren wailing] instead of [ambulance siren]

I hope you enjoyed reading these tips and that you will find them useful in your practice.

About the author:

Kelly O’Donovan is the creator of GOSUB.tv – An education in the art of subtitling.

GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.

Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, Kelly used her know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audiovisual courses.

From her years of experience working with producers, dubbing agencies, video-on-demand platforms, entertainment distributors, encoding houses and more, she has learnt a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. She decided to couple this involvement with her other skill set, which is teaching.

GOSUB was created for you, and we hope that you will find her courses of value.





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