5 Captioning Mistakes To Avoid

POSTED BY Heather Johnson, UPDATED ON March 25th, 2023
5 Captioning Mistakes to Avoid

When Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith becomes Star War the backstroke of the west you know that there is something wrong with your captioning. As hilarious as this may sound, such bad subtitle jobs as the Star Wars one do exist, which leads us to the first mistake to avoid when captioning a movie or a song. Here we take a look at the top 5 captioning mistakes to avoid:


1. Use the Correct Source

The Star Wars subtitling shown in that article was made from a dodgy copy of the movie which was originally in Chinese, so the captions were a – very bad – translation, rather than being from the real thing.

You want to make sure you have the correct source – such as the English copy of Star Wars for example – and that you are captioning the latest version. Things might change while you do your subtitling so it’s always best to verify that you are working on the right content.


2. Make Sure You Understand What You Are Captioning

Did you just hear a foreign word or simply something in your own language you don’t know the meaning of?

If you have more than one language in a scene, be extra careful about how you caption what’s been said; for example when your main character is talking to some Italian saying ‘caldo’, make sure you don’t caption that as ‘cold’ because, actually, they mean the exact opposite.


3. Use a Spare Set of Eyes and Ears

It’s always better to make sure other people look at your subtitling and captioning because they might spot errors that you couldn’t have known about. In the earlier example with the foreign word for instance, if you have no idea of what caldo means (which is ‘hot’) you may wind up subtitling incorrectly.

However, a colleague might know what’s been said and will help you correct it.


4. Think Before Including Background Music

While you need to be as thorough as possible, you need to make sure you don’t distract the audience with your captions.

Background music may or may not need captioning, but its subtitles might clutter the video a bit too much when combined with those of the main scene.

Ask yourself before proceeding ahead with subtitles for incidental music, whether it will add to the action or if it distracts.


5. Don’t Guess

This is different from point 2, as in that case, you misunderstood what was said without realizing it.

In this case, you simply aren’t sure. Don’t just guess words and feed your audience nonsense, it’s best to leave entire lines blank if you don’t understand and then get a second opinion.

What are the worst captioning mistakes you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments section below!

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