Selfie of Sean Zdenek taken on the balcony of a cruise ship with the Atlantic Ocean in the background

About me

Dr. Sean Zdenek is an associate professor of technical and professional writing at the University of Delaware. His research and teaching interests include technical writing,…

A profile shot of Gweneth Paltrow in Contagion (2011). The on-screen text, Day 2, is partially covered by the closed captions: [Coughs] [Cell phone rings]

Positioning and styling captions when speakers overlap and interrupt each other

It can be challenging to caption scenes with multiple speakers. Bottom-center caption placement is far from ideal for readers when it fails to clarify who is speaking. Adding to the difficulty: speakers may talk quickly, interrupt each other, or overlap their speech turns to give cooperative support. When captions are placed underneath or next to each speaker, readers can more quickly distinguish — at a glance — who is speaking.

Caption watch:

Over the last ten days, the percentage of full episodes and movies with closed captions on Hulu has actually gone down. Overall, that percentage of cc content is embarrassingly low, hovering at around 4.5% for full episodes and 6.5% for movies — and appears to be on the way down.