Video Captioning Style Guide


Captions should include:

  • All words spoken by characters (including stuttering etc).
  • Words spoken by a narrator.
  • The words to any song.
  • Identification for off screen speakers.
  • Descriptions of sound events that impact on the story or meaning.

Captions should not include:

  • Every word or sound effect where the pace of a video sometimes makes it impractical.
  • Information that is already displayed on screen, e.g. text in a Powerpoint slide.


  • Characters should use a white san serif font, such as Arial or Helvetica.


  • Captions should have a black background box.

Sentence Style

  • Each sentence should use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Punctuation should follow normal style and conventions.
  • Punctuation should convey, as much as possible, the way speech is delivered.
  • Use ellipses when there is a significant pause within a caption (e.g. It's so...majestic).
  • In order to maintain reading rate, non-essential information can be removed.
  • Spell out numbers from one to ten, but use numerals for all numbers over ten.


  • Each line should be no more than 37 characters in length.
  • Each caption should run over no more than two lines.
  • Line and caption breaks should reflect the natural flow of the sentence and its punctuation.


  • Captions should coincide with the relevant soundtrack, to preserve the relation between sound and visuals.
  • The reading speed should not exceed 180 words per minute (3 words per second).
  • The pace of a video sometimes makes it impractical to include every word or sound effect in caption form.
  • No sentence should remain on screen for less than 2 seconds.

Sound and Speaker Identification

  • Any noise or music that enhances the visuals, contributes to characterisation or adds atmosphere should be captioned.
  • Sound effects should be shown in square brackets, e.g. [dog barking]
  • The speakers name should be identified in round brackets, e.g. (John)
  • Speakers names and sound effects should be shown on a line of their own,e.g.
    I don't think your solution
    would work in this case.

Further Information

This style guide is based on information contained in the following documents:

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