What does a good subtitle look like and what is important to consider?

Almost all audiovisual content creators, regardless of the magnitude of the project they are working on, know that subtitles are an essential and very beneficial tool that must be included.

However, when it comes to creating them, there are too many failures that lower the quality of the video and harm the user more than they benefit.

That's why, in this post I wanted to tell you all about what a good subtitle is, the reasons to include them in the video, the proper format and recommendations to avoid disaster.

Ready to get started?

What is considered a good subtitle?

By following all these recommendations, you will be able to create the right subtitles for your video. Let's get down to business, but first, I'll tell you why subtitles and closed captions are so important.

6 Reasons of why subtitles are important to your video

Before continuing with the recommendations, I would like to dedicate some space to explain the main reasons why subtitles are very important. Then I will explain how to create them accordingly.

problems with subtitle

1. No everyone can hear audio

As obvious as it may sound, sometimes this needs to be re-emphasized. Not everyone can hear, and not everyone can hear well.

Subtitles and closed captions help those with hearing impairments enormously. They will be able to understand what the video is about, get the message and even know the full context of the video when closed captions are used.

2. Not everyone can turn on the audio

In addition to the above, there are many people who for some reason or another cannot listen to the video.

Maybe the audio is broken, maybe they are in a place with a lot of noise, or maybe they don't want to, for their own taste or to not wake up the baby. The reasons why a person may not want to watch a video with audio are endless, however if your video does not include subtitles, then they will skip it.

Subtitles are also useful for anyone who does not want to or cannot listen to audio.

3. They improve comprehension

Subtitles and closed captions allow a better understanding of the video. By reading and listening at the same time, the brain assimilates the content better. These are just a few essential elements to make a video accessible.

There may also be local references in the videos that would be impossible to understand if you are not a local, or the slang of certain areas.

good subtitle

Subtitles will allow you to understand what is being talked about in the video, even if they refer to something that is 3000 km away from you.

4. Easier to understand another language

One of the best ways to learn another language is to subtitle the movies or videos you watch. This is a personal opinion, of course it does not exclude going and taking classes for several years.

However, you will certainly learn a lot and you can improve your knowledge of other languages if you read the subtitles as well as listen to the audio and video.

That said, it is also much easier to understand a video when it is in another language if you read the subtitles. In many cases it is even impossible to understand without the subtitles translated.

Even if it is a language you master with some skill, subtitles will help you understand almost the entire message.

5. More engagement

Subtitles make more people understand the video, therefore on average subtitled videos retain the user more.

Also, by better understanding the message of the video, more people react to it.

This creates more engagement, which is pure profit for the creators of the video.

More time spent, more likes, more comments, surely also more profits.

6. Improve your rankings

Subtitles, transcripts, as well as descriptions help to improve the SEO of your content. Whether within the YouTube search engine, thanks to increased dwell time, engagement and the extra content of the added text itself, or on websites, to which the video transcript or subtitles are added as an appendix.

Google bots and other search engines are not able to read the video, but they can read the text. Therefore it could increase your rankings considerably.

7. More shares in social media

If you add subtitles to the video, and the video is liked by your audience, you are sure to increase the number of times it is shared on social networks.

Moreover, by having the subtitle options, social network users from different countries could better understand the video and progressively increase the visibility of the video on the network.

What are the main problems regarding subtitles?

Now that you know the advantages of including subtitles in your video, let me tell you what are the main problems or common mistakes when adding subtitles to your video.

what is a good closed captions

First of all, the first problem has to do with the speed of the subtitles, if they are too fast it will be very difficult to read them.

The same happens if the subtitles cover many lines, it will be impossible to follow the rhythm or they will cover absolutely everything.

The contrast of the subtitles and the font sometimes make them very difficult to read, and that is a big problem.

Another of the most common and horrifying problems to see are spelling mistakes. For God's sake, pay close attention to them!

Otherwise, trying to translate everything literally is not a good decision. The spoken voice can hardly be translated verbatim, and many times you have to try to reproduce what the text says in the most appropriate and understandable way possible. Not to mention if it is in other languages, since they have their own sayings, their own phrases, even a context behind that makes it unique.

Here are 10 features to create the perfect subtitle, and avoid all these problems.

10 tips to create a good subtitle and keep the attention of the public

If you want to have a video with subtitles that will engage the reader and help them understand, then you should try to follow the steps below.

1. Synchronization must be perfect

Synchronization in audiovisual production is everything.

There is nothing more annoying than watching a video with out-of-sync dialogue. It's certain death for your video if that happens.

The same happens with subtitles, half a second before or half a second after makes a big difference.

subtitles good

It is very important that the synchronization of the subtitles with the audio is perfect.

And when I say perfect, I mean 100% exact, not 95%.

2. The subtitle must be easily readable

When I say that the subtitle must be easily readable I mean that it must have a suitable color and contrast with the background as well.

Usually subtitles are white or yellow, however, this is sometimes not enough, as the contrast of the video can make them difficult to read.

Sometimes you will need to add borders to the subtitle.

It is also important that there are only two lines of text at a time, because if there are more, the user will either not be able to read them or a large amount of content will be lost.

3. The typography must be sober

In relation to the previous section, it is necessary to choose a font that is basic and sober at the same time.

The most common fonts to create subtitles are usually fonts such as:

  • Arial
  • Verdana
  • Roboto
  • Futura
  • Lucida Grande

You can choose among them, or with similar characteristics, simple and easy to see and read.

For this you should also choose a size accordingly. Avoid making it look too big on the screen, but also too small.

It will depend on the size of the screen of course, but 32 px is usually recommended, but sometimes depending on the resolution of your video, you can go to 48 or even 72 px.

You must also take into account that one font can be smaller than another. The truth is that they should occupy a small part of the entire screen, so that users can easily see the content as well.

4. A faithful translation in other languages

Translations generally do not match well with subtitles. In fact, you will probably have to change a lot of things to achieve a 100% understandable subtitle for people who have another mother tongue.

With ScriptMe you can create very reliable automatic subtitles and upload them to your videos in the language of your choice.

That said, as long as someone with knowledge of both languages can proofread and correct, it's going to be more professional and give a better user experience to the reader.

It is not always possible, but it is advisable.

5. Pay close attention to grammar

Grammar is also very important.

In many occasions you will have to try to put in text spoken elements that will be very complex to subtitle. Even so, the grammar you use must be appropriate and free of syntax errors.

The same goes for spelling errors.

User tolerance for spelling errors can be zero in many cases.

6. Proper use of italics and boldface type.

Italics are usually used only for voice-over, for when something is read aloud, or to subtitle the lyrics of a song, speech, poem or quote.

Avoid using italics in areas other than those listed above.

7. Always use the subtitle in the same position.

It seems obvious, but there are videos where one second you have the subtitles at the bottom, and then they appear at the top or somewhere else.

Even within the lower part there are times when they appear to go up and down the frame as if nothing.

This is extremely annoying for users, so choose the subtitle area well and avoid moving from there.

8. Adjust the reading speed

Another struggle we all have with subtitles and closed captions is that sometimes they go too fast.

It is true that they cannot be too slow, since listening reaches the brain faster than reading, but sometimes they go so fast that you have to pause the video and go back to understand.

Generally, subtitles of a few words should last at least 1.5 seconds on screen. If not, it becomes difficult to read them well.

In addition to this rule, subtitles should run at a rate of between 12-15 characters per second of video.

By doing this you will make sure that everyone can read the subtitles.

9. Be creative when there are cultural or contextualized references

There's nothing more entertaining than watching Adam Sandler movies on a Sunday night with your family. They come in all shapes and colors, but imagine watching a movie in which Adam Sandler plays American soccer.

For Americans, it's simply called football, but for most countries football is football played with the feet.

what consider to write a good subtitle

So, you will not be able to write the literal subtitle, and you will have to add "American football" instead.

Like this example, there are thousands more.

10. Do not overuse punctuation symbols

Punctuation symbols should be used in a fair and necessary way.

You can't go crazy and try to put punctuation symbols where they don't belong.

Use question marks only when there are questions.

Exclamation marks should be used only to emphasize or emphasize something in particular.

Double dashes (-) or single dashes (-) should be used when someone interrupts and completes the sentence being spoken by another speaker.

You should also use quotation marks when a poem, phrase, song or book note is recited in the original video.


Surely you have seen a movie with subtitles and thought that creating them was the easiest thing in the world.

That may be true if you use ScriptMe and its artificial intelligence, added to the editing and downloading possibilities, but there are many other elements to keep in mind when uploading subtitles to your video.

In this post we review the importance and benefits that subtitles can bring to your video, as well as the main mistakes when it comes to subtitling.

Finally, I hope this 10-step guide will be useful for you to make your subtitles work for your audience.

Emil Nikkhah
Hi, I'm Emil Nikkhah.
For over 25 years, I have successfully built several television post-production companies.
Frustrated by the high cost and slowness of manual transcription and subtitling in this industry, we decided to create ScriptMe, a powerful software for automatic transcription and subtitling.
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