Edit Your Own YouTube Video Captions

We recommend professionally captioning your videos. However, if you do not have the budget available to professionally caption your videos, there are tools available within YouTube so that you can caption your own videos or upload existing caption or transcript files using the USU Caption Quality Standards.

Go to Video Subtitles Page


Go to Your Video

While logged into YouTube, go to the video you want to work on and click “Edit Video” below the video:
YouTube video with a red arrow pointing to the edit video button.
(you can also search for the video in YouTube Studio). 


Go to Subtitles

In the left navigation, select “Subtitles”:
YouTube editing menu with a red arrow pointing to subtitles as the fifth option in the side menu.
(If prompted, set the desired language and select “Confirm”)

Edit the Automatic Caption File

For videos that are hosted on YouTube, there is usually an auto-generated caption file that you can start with so that it is accurate enough to meet accessibility standards.


Review Caption Standards

Before you get started, become familiar with the USU Captioning Quality Standards.


Select the Automatic Caption File

Find the automatically created, inaccurate “English (Automatic)” caption file and click “Duplicate and Edit to create the new file that you can edit:
Caption file in the YouTube subtitle editor with arrows pointing to the language type and the duplicate and edit button.

If you see “English (video language)”, then the video already has edited, accurate captions - you are all good!

Edit the Caption File

Click “Edit Timings” where you can edit the caption file. The default editing mode is “As Text” which you can start with, but you will also need to edit the file in “timings” mode that you can access from the editor:
A subtitle file open with a red arrow pointing to the edit timings option.


Fix Errors and Add Punctuation

We recommend starting by viewing the text to make sure it is accurate and add missing punctuation. Refer back to the USU Captioning Quality Standards to make sure your videos are captioned correctly.


Adjust Timing

Usually YouTube does a great job making sure the text aligns with the audio. However, if needed, you can adjust the timings in a couple of ways: 

  1. Manually entering times in the boxes on the right side of the text, or 
  2. Sliding the text boxes to the corresponding time at the bottom of the caption box.


After you have finished and reviewed your video to make sure it meets the USU Captioning Quality Standards, click “Publish” in the top right corner and you are finished. Nice work! 

Caution: YouTube does not auto-save any content. If you are editing directly in YouTube, remember to click “Save Draft” periodically to ensure you do not lose any editting you may have done.


  • If you are editing the automatic captions and there are lots of errors, it may be easier to delete that file and start from scratch. 
  • A link to some helpful keyboard shortcuts can be found in the caption editor:
An arrow points at a link called "Keyboard shortcuts."

Uploading Captions Using YouTube

A caption file is basically just a text file. If you already have a transcript or caption file of your video or want to use a non-speech caption file you can also upload a file direction to YouTube.

Upload a Transcript or Caption File

  1. From the Video Subtitles Page, click the “Add Language” button.
  2. Select “English” or the appropriate language.
  3. Select “Add” under the Subtitles column next to the language you just added:
  4. For Caption files:
    1. Click “Upload file”
    2. Select With timing”
    3. Upload your file.
    4. You will be taken to the caption editor where you can review and publish.
  5. For transcripts:
    1. You can select “Upload File and select “Without timing” OR
    2. Select “Auto-sync” and paste the text directly.
    3. You will then need to review the caption timings.

Non-Speech Captions

If you have a video without any speech, it is still important to add captions per the Non-Speech Elements guidelines. You can do this a couple of ways:

Use a Sample Caption File

  1. Download a sample caption file:
  2. Edit the text as needed.
  3. Upload it as a caption file using the instructions above.

Manually Create a Caption File

  1. When adding a file, click “Type manually”.
  2. Enter the non-speech information and adjust the time to 15 seconds:
    YouTube caption interface showing timing set at 15 seconds.
  3. Then click “Publish”, all done!

Additional Resources