It’s easy enough to type out all the words that are said in your video, but some captions are definitely easier to read than others. Check out these four tips to make your captions reader-friendly for your viewers.
1. Break your captions at natural language breaks
Captions should be two lines of text at most. They should end at natural linguistic breaks, ideally at clause or phrase boundaries.
Avoid splitting captions in the middle of a name.
2. Break your captions up evenly
Captions are easier to read if they’re broken up into even line lengths. This makes it easier for them to be read quickly as a chunk of information, rather than your eyes racing back and forth across the screen.
Most people will find the first caption quicker to read compared to the second. Additionally, when you’re reading a lot of captions quickly, your eyes can get tired from whizzing left and right across the screen.
However, what do you do if Rule 1 and Rule 2 clash with each other? That brings us to ...
3. It’s not an exact science
In the captioning world, there is a style battle between the traditionalists and the progressives. Traditionally, breaking up captions at natural language breaks was the number one rule. Nowadays, some captioners with a newer school of thought value evenly formatted captions over everything else to increase potential reading speed for the viewer.
Consider this example:
What to do? The break at the natural language point makes the two lines very uneven. The even lines don’t correspond with a natural break in his sentence. Is the caption too long to have it on one line?
There is no absolute answer here. Captioning is not an exact science. The best thing to do is find a happy medium that you find readable, and then consistently apply the same format when you come across a similar example.
4. People need to have time to read the captions
Arguably the most important aspect to consider when captioning a video is that your viewers have enough time to read the captions.
Watch your video back and read the captions. If you’re having trouble following them or processing all the information, so will your viewers. Condense them or break them up as appropriate and try again. You’ll find that the captions will be far more user-friendly.
In a conversation, it’s common that two people may talk at the same time. In these instances, it is acceptable to condense two short sentences into one caption.