How many of you have ever tried adding subtitles or closed captions to your YouTube videos?

Actually, scratch that.

How many of you have ever even thought of adding subtitles of closed captions to your YouTube videos?

If the answer to any of the above questions is a no, then this article is for you.

Subtitles and closed captions are a crucial, but hugely underrated, tool for content creators. They increase your reachable audience by being more accessible to viewers who speak languages different to the one in the video or who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Sure, YouTube gives the auto-subtitle option for the majority of videos, but we all know it can be a bit off, to put it nicely. If you want your content to reach a wider audience, here’s how to add CCs to your videos!

Let’s start from the beginning- How do I access the subtitles section?!

These are the steps to find the subtitles setting in YouTube Creator Studio.

  1. Go to the Creator Studio select Videos on the left-hand side bar. Hover over the video you want and click the pencil button.
  2. Follow the ‘more options’ tab at the top and head over to the subtitles section.
  3. Click on the hyperlink on ‘To manage other languages, go to subtitles’.
  4. Click ADD LANGUAGE and choose your language.
  5. There will be a list of languages, choose one and click ADD in the subtitles section (final column).

**You can also add a translated version of your title and description, which can further help make your video more accessible.

Here’s a helpful video of the process 👇

Example A

There are four options to add CCs to your video and each method has its own perks and drawbacks.

Automatic captioning

This takes the cake for ease because as a content creator you don’t have to do anything at all! However, the number of mistakes and frequent gaps in translations can actually make the video more difficult to understand. It is especially bad with niche topics, particular jargon, a tricky accent, multiple speakers or other noises.


  1. The 5 steps above should take you to the ‘Manage subtitles and closed captions’ section.
  2. There you select Upload Subtitles/CC and select the language the video is in or one you’d like to translate it too.
  3. Click Publish and enjoy your effort-free subtitles, woohoo!! 🥳

User-generated CCs

Some content creators give their audience free rein with the captioning. This can be great if you have a large and global audience as it can offer free translations. However, allowing this much freedom can cause a few issues with profanity, mistranslations, contextual changes and other challenges for the creator. The question here is- how much do you trust your audience?

If you whole-heartedly trust them, here’s how you give them the ability to submit CCs:

  1. In this case, just follow the first 3 steps that get you to the Video subtitles section
  2. At the bottom, there is a drop down arrow for ‘Community Contributions’, switch it ON.
  3. Your viewers will now be able to submit translations or captions for your videos! 👏

Uploading a transcription file

This is a little more time consuming, but if you outsource your editing or transcription, this is the option for you. Some editing softwares like Adobe Premiere Pro include this as a feature FYI. You can always include timestamps in the file which can make it a pretty speedy process!

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Make sure you’ve followed the first 5 steps that get you to the ‘Manage subtitles and closed captions’ section
  2. There you will see 3 options - choose ‘Upload a file’.
  3. Ignore YouTube’s warning that ‘Uploading a file will overwrite this version of [insert language]’ and proceed to choose which file type you’re about to upload

*In some instances you will not be allowed to upload a transcript file so that option will be greyed out for you. In this case you might need to change the format of your file into one of the accepted formats like .srt

  1. Choose your file and then click Upload.
  2. If the file you uploaded already has timestamps in it, you will not need to adjust timings for each captions, but if not you will have to do it yourself… manually 👻

Transcribing in Creator Studio

YouTube’s creator studio offers a handy functionality to add and edit captions manually as well as adjust their timings without any additional files, however the way it’s looking as of the date of publishing this article, the auto-translating and transcribing feature is only available for the language that is spoken in the video.

  1. Once again, make sure you’ve followed the aforementioned 5 steps to get you to the ‘Manage subtitles and closed captions’ section.
  2. Once again you see the 3 options - this time, choose ‘Transcribe and auto-sync’.
  3. The screen will load with your video on the left, and a text box on the right.
  4. At this point, just type what you hear in the video in the box! You can add notes about specific sounds here too.
  5. See below for setting the timings!

Once you’re done adding the text for closed captions, click ‘Set timings’ and click the language you’re working in from the options. There’s sometimes a delay between transcription and timings because YouTube tries to do it automatically.

The editing process of syncing the captions with the video

The ‘set timings’ tool breaks down your transcription automatically syncing it with the video. Generally, this works pretty well, but sometime it cuts some sentences in half (see the part where it says ‘with my viewers’ in the video above). Once you’ve sorted out the sentences, watch your video and drag the bars of the caption segments at the bottom of the video to make sure they are all in sync. Check for any final edits and VOILA!!

So there you have it! Your one-stop guide to adding subtitles and closed captions to your videos 🙃