Captions

Captions are a text version of speech that provide information to people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, or by people who process written content better than audio. Captions are also useful for people who can’t turn audio on or are in a loud environment.

Related terms







Illustration: A laptop sits on someone’s bed, playing a video that shows a closeup of a character’s face with closed captioning of the dialogue. The viewer’s legs are visible beside the laptop, stretched out and crossed.
Illustration: A laptop sits on someone’s bed, playing a video that shows a closeup of a character’s face with closed captioning of the dialogue. The viewer’s legs are visible beside the laptop, stretched out and crossed.

Long definition

Captions are “text versions of the spoken word presented within multimedia” (Source: WebAIM, “Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions”). Ultimately, captions exist to communicate all audio information that exists in any media. Captions should indicate sounds (e.g. music playing, a dog barking, etc.) along with dialogue.

Depending on the audience, the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are used interchangeably. The key differences between them, however, is how they are used and what is included. Captions are exclusively for the same language as the media is originally in and provide written versions of both the dialogue and the sound effects. Subtitles, on the other hand, are available in a wide variety of languages and only show dialogue, not sound effects.

Most people use software or services to help develop captions for media. There are several software programs available specifically for captioning, but many common technologies now include basic captioning features, for example Instagram. However, it’s important to keep in mind the accuracy of captions and ensure that they are consistent, error free, and synchronized.

One problem with software automation is that automated captions are known for not being entirely accurate. Thankfully, most automated captioning tools and services allow you to manually edit the generated captions to fix any errors.

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