How To Write Closed Captions In 5 Easy Steps (And Other Things You Need To Know)

December 19, 2023

How To Write Closed Captions In 5 Easy Steps (And Other Things You Need To Know)

A study by Verizon on mobile video consumption found that more than 80% of viewers are more likely to finish a video if it has closed captions. In addition, Meta published a study that proved adding closed captions to videos increases watch time by 12%. Also, closed captioning enables videos to be accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Thus, to be successful with your video content creation, it’s important to learn how to write closed captions.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What You Need To Write Closed Captions And Subtitles

Not much is needed to write closed captions. All you need are basic equipment and skills to get started.

Here’s what you need:

  • The video or audio file to be captioned - It’s best to have the highest quality copy so the audio is clear
  • Computer/Laptop - Makes it convenient to multitask and edit the caption file
  • Headphones - Allows you to focus solely on the video and block out background noise and sound effects
  • Listening and comprehension skills - Crucial to understanding and transcribing dialogue and complex speech elements (e.g., thick accents, technical vocabulary)
  • Typing speed - Reduces captioning/transcription time significantly
  • Patience - Important, especially when the audio is muddled or low-quality

How To Write Closed Captions In 5 Steps

1. Open a media player program and text processor

Any media player program will work as long as it can play the file type of your video. With your text processor, Google Docs is highly recommended to autosave your work. This function comes in handy in case your computer malfunctions.

Place your media player and text processor windows beside each other to make it easier to navigate between the programs. You can achieve this effect with the window snapping feature in both Windows and MacOS devices.

2. Transcribe the video

Transcription is a vital part not only of closed captioning but also of content creation in general. It allows you to repurpose your content more easily and create reference materials for future projects.

Here’s a quick guide on how to transcribe audio:

1. Format the transcript to indicate the starting and ending timecodes, speaker name, and dialogue. For example:

[0:00 - 0:30]

John: Is transcription useful in your projects?

Peter: Yes, it helps a lot.

[0:30 - 1:00]

John: What benefits does transcription have?

Peter: One benefit it offers is that it lets us come up with more ideas in the future.

2. Play the video and listen carefully to the dialogue.

3. Type the speech that plays in the video.

4. For parts you’re unable to understand properly, rewind the video and try to transcribe that part again.

5. Alternatively, you can mark each difficult part with a distinct symbol, such as an asterisk, so you can come back to them later.

3. Proof the transcript

Scan the transcript for any grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Return to any difficult parts you marked and try to make out what was said.

For comprehensive and efficient proofing, play the video at a faster playback speed (either 1.5x or 2x), read along the transcript, and correct any mistakes you find.

4. Format and save the transcript in the proper subtitle file type

When the transcript is complete, it’s time to convert it into the proper subtitle format.

There are various file formats for closed captions, depending on where you plan to publish your audio or video. For now, here’s a quick guide on converting your transcript to an SRT subtitle file (SubRip Subtitle file):

1. Create a copy of your transcript file.

2. Open the transcript file with your text processor.

3. Restructure your transcript with the following elements:

  • Sequence number
  • Beginning and ending timecodes formatted as Hour:Minute:Second,Millisecond (e.g., 00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:05,000)
  • Caption text (maximum of two lines)

Here’s an example:


00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:05,000

Is transcription useful

in your projects?


00:00:06,500 --> 00:00:10,000

Yes, it helps a lot.

4. Repeat step 3 until you convert the entire transcript.

5. Review the closed captions

Test your closed captions with the media player of your choice and check for the following:

  • Timing - Are your closed captions appearing at the right time?
  • Sentence length - Is it too long or does it fill in the right amount of space on the video?
  • Captions with two lines - Is one line longer than the other?

Useful Tips For Writing Closed Captions

Generally, closed captioning is a time-consuming process that can take up a lot of energy you’d need for your other tasks.

To alleviate the tedium of writing closed captions, here are some tips to help you:

  • Work in a quiet environment. Outside distractions can make it difficult to focus on the video you’re captioning.
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones. If no quiet environment is available, wearing headphones with a noise-canceling feature (best if active, but passive also works) is very helpful.
  • Use a comfortable chair. This allows you to sit down longer without worrying about your posture. 
  • Skim the video prior to transcription. Skimming before transcribing lets you have a clear perspective of any audio challenges (e.g., complex audio, heavy accents).
  • Allocate a specific time slot for captioning. Dedicate an ample amount of time solely for transcription and captioning to ensure the completion of the task.

Alternative: Let TranscriptionWing Do It For You

Closed captions can significantly improve your video content strategy. However, writing closed captions can cause frustration and a reduction in productivity, especially when you’re still learning how to write closed captions efficiently.

Instead of working on the closed captioning yourself, it’s much better to outsource it to an expert closed captioning provider. This saves you a lot of time and energy that you can use for your other projects while reaping the benefits of closed captioning.

Learn how TranscriptionWing’s expert human transcriptionists can help level up your video content with accurate closed captioning. Discover other human transcription services like interview transcription services and academic transcription services to help you achieve your project goals.

Related Posts

Free Recording Service