Proper use of video captions

November 3, 2023

Information from

No matter where a video is posted, whether it’s on a website or social media, it should be captioned so that deaf and hard-of-hearing users can access and enjoy the content. But you don’t need to experience hearing loss to benefit from captions: they provide a better experience for a viewer with a learning disability, an attention deficit, or a cognitive disability, or if someone is autistic.

Captions are also helpful if:

  • you're in a noisy environment
  • a video has poor audio
  • a video is in a different language
  • a speaker is talking too fast
  • a speaker has an accent
  • you're trying not to disturb people around you

According to a 2019 study from Verizon Media and Publicis Media, 69 percent of people watch videos without sound in public places, and Facebook found that 85 percent of its users watch or begin watching videos with the sound off.

Closed Captions

There are two types of captions, closed and open. Closed captions can be toggled on and off based on the preferences of the viewer. They can also be moved and resized. Closed captions are a common feature on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok all have varying degrees of closed captioning capabilities for their video features.

Some platforms will tout their ability to add auto-captions to your videos, but much like automatic alt text, auto-captions aren’t usually very good and should not be used for your final captions. Edit any auto-captions whenever possible.

Open Captions

Open captions are permanently embedded into a video during post-production and always visible. They cannot be turned off, moved, or resized by a viewer.

You’ll typically see open captions on a video when closed captions aren’t available. Some platforms still don’t offer captioning for all their features or users yet. TikTok started rolling out a closed captioning tool in April 2021 for select languages after deaf and disabled users repeatedly pointed out that the app was inaccessible for them.

Instagram followed shortly after in May 2021 with a captions sticker for Stories that adds open captions to your videos, and it later rolled out to Reels as well. But there’s still no in-app captioning option for basic feed videos that creators can edit, only auto-captions, so you’ll need to rely on external captioning apps if you want your captions to be accurate.

There are several great mobile apps available for creating open captions including:

  • AutoCap
  • MixCaptions
  • Clipomatic
  • Kapwing
  • Clips

All these apps make it easy and inexpensive to add open captions to your videos, and some of them even allow you to download your finished captions as an SRT file.

Which should you use?

If you’re trying to decide between using closed or open captions, choose closed. They offer a more customizable experience for viewers in terms of visibility, position, and size, so they are the preferred option. Open captions should really only be used when closed captioning isn’t available.

Additional Resources and Reading

Want to learn more about captions? Check out the links available on