Selecting the Best Font for Captioning 

By: Verbit Editorial
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In 2021, U.S. adults watched roughly 167 minutes of TV video content and 149 minutes of digital video each day. Those numbers indicate the vast amount of content that creators are uploading onto an ever-growing slate of platforms. For the content creators who are producing those videos, it’s critical to ensure that they’re offering accessibility solutions for all of their content.

When it comes to video content, one of the most important accessibility tools to provide is closed captioning. Captions offer more equitable viewing experiences to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Additionally, many individuals with ADHD and auditory processing disorders benefit from this useful resource.

However, content creators often overlook some captioning considerations. For instance, there are some highly important best practices for closed captioning formats and styles. Choosing the best subtitle fonts is about more than an aesthetic choice. The closed caption font creators use can impact their audiences’ experiences and even the efficacy of the captions. Here are some considerations that every video producer should think about before they add captions to their content.

Table of Contents:

Captioning 101: understanding the terminology and options

Captioning refers to the process of converting audio to written text that displays in conjunction with a piece of video content. Captions serve as a visual representation of the audio track of a video, which can improve comprehension and engagement for viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Because many other viewers can’t or don’t listen to videos at full volume, it’s common for people who may not need captions to use them as well. Although there are many caption formatting options, they often appear as white text in a black box at the top or bottom of your screen.

Before diving into the various fonts for captions, here’s a bit more information about the differences between popular types of captioning. 

  • Closed Captions: Closed captions are captions that audience members can enable or disable at will. In order to turn on closed captions, viewers can either use the on-screen [cc] button or their remote control.
  • Open Captions: Open captions differ from closed captions because they are permanent fixtures in a video. Essentially, these captions are “burned in” or “baked in” and become a part of the video. Viewers cannot selectively turn these captions on and off based on their needs or preferences.
  • Subtitles: Although people often use the terms interchangeably, subtitles and captions are not the same thing. Subtitles are similar to captions, but there are some important differences. Subtitles focus only on dialogues and narration and include textual representations of non-speech audio elements. For instance, sound effects and music cues will prompt a notation in captions but not in subtitles. The reason for this difference is that subtitles support audience members who are viewing videos in a non-native language. As a result, subtitles seek only to offer a translation of the spoken text. Captions provide an equitable viewing experience for audience members who are Deaf or hard of hearing and do so in part by conveying non-verbal sounds.
The letter A in different fonts for subtitle font testing

What is the Standard Subtitle Font?

If you’re wondering what font is used for subtitles, there isn’t really a default or industry standard. On many popular video platforms, creators and users have subtitle font options to choose from. People make these decisions largely based on their personal preferences.

In some instances, there may be more room for creativity. For example, when it comes to selecting fonts for subtitles, the stakes are lower because they’re not intended to serve as an accessibility tool. However, if the goal is to make content more accessible by offering closed captions, font choice can make a world of difference to viewers who rely on them to support their comprehension.

What Font is Used in Closed Captioning?

Again, there is no universal standard for closed captioning font style. However, there are some guidelines to consider when selecting the best fonts for videos that will appear on YouTube channels or social media pages. Experts agree that some of the best fonts for subtitles and captions are non-serif fonts. A serif is a small line attached to a larger stroke in a letter. Here’s an example:

Non-Serif Font (Arial): CAPTION

Serif Font (Garamond): CAPTION

Some people enjoy using Serif fonts for aesthetic purposes. However, the additional strokes and flourishes in these typefaces can impede a viewer’s ability to visually process the text. This issue is particularly true if the captions are moving fairly quickly. Writing captions in serif-free capital letters makes them easy to read. The goal is to provide viewers with text that they can follow along in real-time as easily as possible.

Below are some examples of good subtitle fonts without serifs:

  1. ARIAL
  2. CALIBRI
  3. HELVETICA
  4. TAHOMA
  5. LUCIDA
A remote control being held in front of a television

Can You Change the Font on Closed Captioning?

For viewers, the customization options vary from platform to platform. Additionally, the devices playing the video may impact the font choices. For instance, it’s possible to change the movie subtitle font for content on Hulu’s living room app directly within the platform’s settings menu. However, viewers watching Hulu content on a mobile device will need to adjust their caption font through the device’s accessibility menu. Here are the steps to customize caption font selections on iOS devices:  

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select the Accessibility menu.
  3. Click on Subtitles and Captioning, then click Style.
  4. Select Create New Style to choose your preferred caption font.
  5. Click Save.

The iOS device will then save the selected settings and apply them when the user enables captions in apps like Netflix and Hulu.

When it comes to content creators who need to add captions to their video content, many video editing platforms allow for caption customization directly within the program. For example, the Adobe Premiere captioning workflow allows creators to self-select their caption fonts. Similarly, when adding captions in iMovie, users have a wide variety of title font options.

Eliminate the Guesswork with Verbit

Selecting the best fonts for subtitles or captions is an important part of every video project. For video producers who create a lot of content or need professional-quality captions, the best option is to partner with a provider like Verbit. Verbit’s team of experts is well-versed in accessibility best practices. Additionally, relying on a professional captioning service can help businesses adhere to legal standards like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Verbit uses a dual approach to transcription and captioning that combines artificial intelligence with professional human transcribers. This hybrid approach allows Verbit to produce captions with accuracy rates up to 99% at scale, with rapid turnaround times.

Verbit’s platform also integrates seamlessly with popular media hosting sites to save creators time and hassle during the captioning process. Captions can be customized to the needs of a specific project and delivered in a wide range of file formats that are compatible with the video-sharing sites creators use every day. Verbit offers industry-leading customer support and a team of experts who are available to answer any captioning-related queries.

In addition to professional captioning services, Verbit offers a full suite of accessibility tools like transcription, translation and audio description to help creators equally support the needs of all their audience members. Whether you’re looking for PowerPoint subtitles, YouTube closed captions or Camtasia captions, Verbit’s workflows and software integrations help take the guesswork out of accessibility. Reach out today to learn more about how audiences around the world can benefit from Verbit’s industry-leading accessibility solutions.