Knowledgebase: TechSmith Knowmia
Captioning - Best Practices
Updated: 15 September 2020 10:29 AM

The following tips are taken from Humber College's Captioning Style Guide.


  • Spelling should always be done to Canadian standards. 


  • Serial or "Oxford" commas should be employed for clarity. A sentence like, “I like peanut butter and jam, and tuna sandwiches,” conveys a much different meaning than: “I like peanut butter and jam and tuna sandwiches.”
  • Parentheses should not be used when transcribing text because they are used to denote content that is not narration.
  • Dashes (-) should be used to end a sentence that is cut off or interrupted. If a speaker interrupts themselves or trails off, use ellipsis (...) instead.


  • Delete filler like "um," "uh," "er," and other sounds that are generally meaningless.

False Starts

  • Words and phrases like "so," "well," "you know," and others can be removed if it will not change the meaning of the text.
    “So, you know, if we take a look at this example...” → “If we take a look at this example...”
    “When, when you consider...” → “When you consider...”

Lectures & Tutorials

When an instructor is describing what is happening on screen, it is important to make the transcripts consistent and easy to understand.

  • Alphanumeric keys are presented as capital letters, numbers, or symbols (A,X,1,0,?,/).
  • Cursor and navigation keys are named and capitalized (Left Arrow, Page Up, Backspace, Insert, Home, End, etc.)
  • The modifier keys are Ctrl, Al, Shift, Caps Lock and Windows (or Win) Key, Command and Option.
  • Key combinations are presented with a "+" between the modifier and the key being pressed: Ctrl+S, Command+W. Certain symbols are spelled out in this context, such as Command+Period.
  • Capitalize and spell menu selections as they appear on screen, separated by commas: To save your document, click on File, Save As.
  • On-screen elements should be written as they are on the screen but only when they are referred to specifically: To create a black-and-white photograph, go to Image, Adjust, Black & White.
  • Canadian spelling is to be used throughout a tutorial except when the speaker is specifically referring to an on-screen element – in Photoshop, you pick a colour using the Color Picker.
  • “Okay” is used when transcribing speech, but click OK for the on-screen action as that is how OK is displayed in most computer programs.

Slang & Contractions

  • Change slang like "gonna" and "wanna" to "going to" and "want to."
  • Contractions should be transcribed as is whenever possible: “wouldn’t,” “isn’t,” “could’ve,” even “ain’t.”


  • Numbers from one to nine are written as words unless they are part of an equation.
  • Words are also used for uncertain or estimated amounts: Thousands of people paid hundreds of dollars to see dozens of animals.
  • Use "per cent" rather than the % symbol.


  • Any profanity or “swear words” should be captured as they are spoken.

Bad Quality or Missing Audio

  • Use (indiscernible) when the audio is there but you can't make it out.
  • Use (inaudible) when it is completely missing from the recording.
  • Use (no narration) when there is an extended period of silence.

Identifying Speakers

  • If the names of the speakers are known, put the name of who is speaking in the caption in capital letters followed by a colon. Use first and last name for the speaker's first appearance, only the last name subsequently.
    BOB SMITH: I'd like to introduce Jane Jones. JANE JONES: Hi everyone. SMITH: It's great to have you.
  • If speakers' names are unknown, choose suitable descriptors for each speaker: SPEAKER 1, SPEAKER 2, etc.