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Captions vs Subtitles- How To Choose The Best Option?

Explore the differences between closed captions and subtitles and the ideal choice to use in YouTube videos.

Do you feel captions and subtitles in YouTube videos are one and the same? Well, they’re not. Although similar, there is a world of difference between captions and subtitles. YouTube has expanded its reach exponentially, and as a creator, you might need to cater to the different needs of your global audience. This article will help you learn what is closed captioning and enable you to select the best suitable for your videos.

What Is Closed Captioning?

Let’s first understand what is caption in YouTube videos. Captions are words that appear in the lower center part of YouTube videos. It transcribes what people are saying in the video.

It helps viewers get a better sense of the video’s context, even if they need to watch on mute or face difficulty understanding what the viewer is saying.

In certain instances, captions also include certain descriptions of background music or effects. For example, you are watching a YouTube video, and there’s background music playing. So, captions would be like, ‘Silent music playing,’ or ‘Alpha beats playing,’ etc.

Captions are of two types

1. Open Captions:

As a creator, if you want your viewer to understand the complete audio of your video, you can use open captions. They are added to the video in the editing process and become a part of the video. A viewer cannot turn off the open captions being displayed while the video plays.

2. Closed Captions:

Closed captions, often referred to as closed captioning, are displayed while the video is played, but it isn’t a part of the video. It offers viewers the flexibility to turn them off using the settings menu in the video.

What are Subtitles on YouTube?

Subtitles are written translations of what the creator is saying in a different language than the rest of the video. It helps viewers understand the dialogue in a language that they might not know. For example, you create travel videos using the English language. If you want to reach a new audience, you can add subtitles to your videos so that viewers who don’t understand English can still watch your video in their language.

Adding subtitles can make your videos accessible to a global audience.

Key Difference Between Subtitles and Closed Captioning

Now that you know what is closed captioning and subtitles, let’s explore their key differences.

1. Intention of Use


  • Captions, open or closed, help viewers understand the full context of the video, including music effects.
  • Captions are likely to encourage viewers to engage with the videos since they grasp the message clearly.
  • It can save your viewer from scrolling past your content just because it is confusing or unclear.


  • Subtitles encourage viewers to understand certain aspects of the video’s original language in their native speaking language.
  • It helps to reach viewers speaking different languages globally. For instance, a French creator can reach an English-speaking audience by including subtitles in their videos.
  • Subtitles translate only the spoken words, not the music or background effects.

2. Place Of Appearance

  • Closed or open captions can appear anywhere on the video. They could be at the top, bottom, or any other ideal location to reinforce the message of the video.
  • Subtitles are mostly placed at the bottom of the video screen so that it doesn’t disturb the flow of the original video being played.
  • Placing them at the bottom helps viewers to follow the visual elements as well as understand the dialogue through subtitles.

3. Language

  • Captions, whether open or closed, transcribe the audio in the same language to provide clarity of the video. If your content is in English, your captions will also be in English.
  • Subtitles, on the other hand, show the video’s audio in a different language, helping the viewer understand the context of the video.

How To Add Captions To A YouTube Video?

YouTube automatically generates closed captions for your video. Sometimes, this can result in incorrect transcriptions, especially when pronouncing names. You can edit your captions in YouTube Studio or third-party video editing tools. It may take a lot of time.

Follow these steps to review automatic captions using YouTube Studio.

  • Sign in to YouTube Studio.
  • Select Subtitles from the left menu.
  • Click on the video to which you want to add captions
  • Under the subtitles, click on three dots.
  • Review the automatic transcriptions and edit or remove the texts that have not been properly transcribed.

You can also add closed captioning to your YouTube video using third-party tools.

Here’s how you can do it.

  • Click and load the video in the editor dashboard to which you wish to add the captions.
  • Before you hit the ‘create‘ button, select captions option available in the list of tools.
  • Choose the language of your video and click on ‘Proceed.’
  • Review the captions, its font style,etc., and edit its placement on the video screen.
  • Finally, if everything seems alright,click export.

How To Add Subtitles To Your YouTube Video?

You can add subtitles to cater to an audience who speak a different language. You can add subtitles to YouTube videos with the steps below:

1. Sign in to YouTube Studio using your credentials

2. Select ‘Subtitles’ appearing in the left menu

YouTube Studio

3. Choose the video you wish to edit

4. Click on ‘Add Language‘ and select the language for your subtitles.

Closed captioning for YouTube videos

5. You can choose to upload a txt file of subtitles or type manually.

Upload file for YouTube subtitles

You can also add subtitles during the editing process.


To recap, captions help your viewers better understand your video content. They cater to the audience who have hearing impairments or have to watch videos without sound. Whereas, subtitles are written translations of what the YouTuber is saying in a language different from what the audience speaks. Closed captions and subtitles can boost views on YouTube videos by engaging viewers. It also helps to optimize your videos’ SEO and visibility in YouTube search results and SERPs. Thus, you make your content more accessible and reach a wider audience.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. What is the difference between closed captioning vs Subtitles?

Closed captioning is text that appears in the same language that the creator speaks in the video. Subtitles are textual translations of your video content in a different language that the audience doesn’t understand. Both help in making your content accessible to reach a wider audience regardless of their primary language.

Q2. Who writes Subtitles for a YouTube video?

You can use online transcription services that help you write subtitles for your video. Or else, you can also use third-party video editing tools to add subtitles using AI.

Q3. Can I upload a separate subtitle or caption file to YouTube?

Yes. During the video uploading process, you can add the TXT file containing your subtitles. Follow these steps to upload.

  1. Verify whether the file type is supported on YouTube.
  2. Select upload file in YT Studio.
  3. Choose a file with or without timing.
  4. Select a file to upload.
  5. Select Save.

Q4. Does automatic closed captioning work for YouTube videos?

Currently, YouTube uses machine learning and AI to generate automatic closed captioning for YouTube videos. However, the platform is constantly improving its technology, and hence, the quality of captions may vary. So, we recommend adding professional captions first.