Captioning Key - Language Mechanics
Language mechanics incorporate the proper use of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and other factors deemed necessary for high-quality captioned media. Rules included in these guidelines are primarily those which are unique to captioning and speech-to-text. For conventional words, dictionaries and style guides must be followed. Proper names, technical terms, and specialized language must be verified though specialty references or directly from an authoritative source.
- Do not emphasize a word using all capital letters except to indicate screaming or shouting.
- Be consistent in the spelling of words throughout the media. This includes vocabulary that can be spelled either as one or two words or in hyphenated form.
- Capitalize proper nouns for speaker identification. All other speaker identification should be lowercased unless this identification is being used as a proper noun.
- Lowercase sound effects, including both description and onomatopoeia, except when a proper noun is part of the description.
- See the Numbers section on the Captioning Key Appendices page for detailed guidelines for numbers including dates, time, periods of time, fractions, percents, dollar amounts, and measurements.
- When captioning a list separated by commas, use a serial, or Oxford, comma. Example:
InappropriateI'm having eggs, bacon and toast.
AppropriateI'm having eggs, bacon, and toast.
Hyphens and Dashes
- When a speaker hesitates or stutters, caption what is said.
- When captioning spelling (including fingerspelling), separate capital letters with hyphens.
- Use an ellipsis when there is a significant pause within a caption.
- Do not use an ellipsis to indicate that the sentence continues into the next caption.
- Use an ellipsis to lead into or out of audio relating to an onscreen graphic.
- Use quotation marks for onscreen readings from a poem, book, play, journal, or letter. However, use quotation marks and italics for offscreen readings or voice-overs.
- Beginning quotation marks should be used for each caption of quoted material except for the last caption. The last caption should have only the ending quotation mark.
Correct ExampleReading from a journal…
"Mother knelt down
and began thoughtfully fitting
"the ragged edges
of paper together.
The process was watched
with spellbound interest."
- Spaces should not be inserted before ending punctuation, after opening and before closing parentheses and brackets, before and after double hyphens and dashes, or before/between/after the periods of an ellipsis.
- A space should be inserted after the beginning music icon (♪) and before the ending music icon(s).
Correct Example♪ There's a bad moon rising ♪
Use italics as follows:
- A voice-over reading of a poem, book, play, journal, letter, etc. (This is also quoted material, so quotation marks are also needed.)
- When a person is dreaming, thinking, or reminiscing.
- When there is background audio that is essential to the plot, such as a PA system or TV.
- The first time a new word is being defined, but do not italicize the word thereafter.
- Offscreen dialogue, narrator (see Exception 2 below), sound effects, or music (this includes background music).
- The offscreen narrator when there are multiple speakers onscreen or offscreen.
- Speaker identification when the captioned dialogue is in italics.
- Foreign words and phrases, unless they are in an English dictionary.
- When a particular word is heavily emphasized in speech.
Correct ExampleYou must go!
Exceptions to the use of italics include:
- When an entire caption is already in italicized format, use Roman type to set off a word that would normally be italicized.
- If there is only one person speaking throughout the program (including the narrator), whether onscreen or offscreen, use Roman type with no italics.
- Do not italicize when a person who is offscreen is translating for a speaker who is onscreen.