Every word counts

The role of the captioner

It takes time, skill, experience and training to deliver a high-quality captioned performance. Captioners are involved in two processes: formatting the text and outputting the text.

Formatting a script

An up-to-date script should be sent direct to the captioner ideally as an electronic copy in Word format. If an electronic copy is not available, a good quality hard copy should be sent to Stagetext for scanning purposes.

If a script needs to be photocopied from a book, make sure that it is copied onto single sheets (not double-sided) as it will need to be scanned to convert it to an electronic format.  In cases where the captioner has been booked direct, and not through Stagetext, the theatre may be required to scan the script themselves and send it to the captioner electronically; a hard copy of the original should also be posted to the captioner.

The captioner will format the script using agreed captioning conventions taught on the training course. Captioners need to be able to:

  • Ensure that the text presented is verbatim.
  • Describe sound effects and music.
  • Describe vocal effects such as [ BELCH ],
    [ LOUD YAWN ], and features such as emphasis, volume, pitch and intonation.
  • Indicate accents through labelling [ IRISH ] or phonetic representation of accent [“Did yow call, sir?”] when these are integral to the plot.
  • Indicate asides.
  • Use appropriate punctuation for spoken as opposed to written texts.
  • Use appropriate punctuation for indication of irony, sarcasm etc.
  • Indicate verse, prose, song.
  • Prevent premature disclosure of joke punchlines or plot points.
  • Enable the viewer to experience the spirit, meaning and intent of the performance.

    Several viewings of a video or DVD recording of the show, viewings of the live show and discussions with stage management are essential to accurately capture the performance. The total time to format a script, check and incorporate corrections can be at least 60 hours, sometimes much longer, depending on the complexity of the production.

When outputting text, the captioner needs to make decisions about:

  • the amount of text delivered at any one time
  • the speed of delivery
  • the use of pauses
  • the use of blank screens to enable viewers to watch purely visual action on stage.

Have a look at our film, A Play in the Life of a Captioner, here.

Information on Captioner Training.




The Arts Council
The Arts Council
The Arts Council