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Best Grammar Practices in Video Captioning

We know that captions are now a crucial addition when you create any type of video content. After all, 80% of videos on social media are watched on mute. But when you’re busy captioning your videos in order to get maximum reach and engagement… how much consideration are you giving to grammar?

While using Zubtitle or similar captioning software to edit your caption text and caption breaks, you may have run into a few questions about what are the most acceptable practices for formatting and grammar. When is it ok to add a caption break, and when is it not? How do you use quotations? etc…

While it’s true that the average person may not even know the difference; for the meticulous ones like us and grammar-nazis alike, we’ll know! 

We wanted to find these answers, so we’ve rounded up some common questions and answers in one simple guide that can be easily referenced next time you’re editing a video.

Best Grammar Practices in Video Captioning

Is it okay to hyphenate a word that’s broken up between two caption lines?

Short answer: no. Line breaks that occur in the middle of words can be confusing and are generally disruptive to the reader’s concentration. Whenever possible, try to place the entire word at the ending of one caption line or the beginning of the next.

What is the best way to break up lines of captions?

Ideally, your subtitle lines should always end at natural breaks or pauses in the sentence. Technically speaking, the perfect place to put a line break is any place with a piece of punctuation (a period, comma, hyphen, etc.). When there isn’t a natural punctuation point to use as a line break, opt for the end of a clause. 

Example:

I am going to share three tips with you {caption break} so you can be a better video marketer.

Here are a few places where you should NOT place a line break:

  • Between a person’s first name and last name
  • After a conjunction (if there’s a conjunction, like “and”, always place the line break right before it)
  • Between an article and a noun (for example, never place a line break between the words “the” and “book”)

Should you include a comma at the end of a caption break?

Yes! The end of a caption break is always an appropriate place to put any grammatically-correct punctuation (commas, periods, hyphens, semicolons, etc.). 

Can you use ellipses in captions?

Oftentimes, people want to use an ellipsis (…) at the end of a caption line to indicate that the caption continues. Resist that urge. Using an ellipsis in that situation is redundant and takes up unnecessary space. The only time you should ever use an ellipsis in captioning is to signify a long pause.

Should you use quotation marks in captions?

Don’t use quotation marks simply for anything that’s being said by a speaker onscreen or to delineate between multiple speakers (we’ll get to that in a minute). But you should absolutely use quotations if someone in the video is quoting an outside source. For example, if someone reads from a book or uses an inspirational quote, you should always enclose the relevant material with quotation marks.

How do you use quotations, especially when a quote extends from one caption to the next?

As was stated before, make sure you’re only ever using quotation marks for sentences that are direct quotes from someone who is not featured in the video. If that’s the situation (for instance, someone in the video is reading aloud), then enclose the entire quote in quotation marks. If the quotation extends past a caption break, that’s fine! The whole quote doesn’t have to be visible on the screen. Just put the first quotation mark at the beginning of the quote and the final one at the end. It’s that simple.

How do you handle captions when two different people (or more) are talking in the video?

There are actually two ways to handle this situation, and it entirely depends on where the speakers in the video are located and how many there are. If there is one speaker visible on-screen and another speaking off-screen (perhaps in an interview situation), you can caption the on-screen speaker’s speech normally and use italics for the one off-screen. If there are more than two speakers (or only two speakers, but both are visible on-screen at the same time), you can simply use hyphens or speaker IDs to distinguish between their dialogue.

What are your best practices for grammar in captioning? Share any that we missed in the comments!

And if you want to start captioning your videos the easy way, try out Zubtitle! With our free plan, you can create two videos per month. To create up to 10 videos per month (and remove the Zubtitle watermark), check out our standard plan.

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