How to turn TikTok’s auto captions on (or off)

Video captions are important. To begin with, they can be a vital accessibility tool for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. In addition, captioning can be helpful for people who are in environments where they can’t use the audio and / or don’t have headphones available. Or who (like myself) occasionally like to chat during videos and use captions to keep track of what’s being said.

Before TikTok added automatic captions to its app in April of this year, a lot of TikTok creators were manually adding captions to their TikTok videos, either via the app’s text feature or by using third-party apps. However, that’s no longer necessary — the auto caption feature is now a part of TikTok, thanks to organizations such as The Deaf Collective, which worked with TikTok to develop the feature.

So, it’s a good idea to enable auto captions for all your videos. And don’t worry: if anybody watching one of your videos prefers not to have the captions on, they can easily shut them off (we’ll go into that in a moment).

How to turn captioning on

  • After you’ve created or uploaded your video, hit the check mark to indicate you’re ready to start working on it. You’ll now be in the first editing page.
  • Look for the “Captions” icon on the right side of the screen and tap it.
  • The first time you enable captions, you will get a screen that explains how they work and will ask for you to consent to the “collection and use of the audio.”
To start, tap the “Captions” icon on the right side of the screen.
To start, tap the “Captions” icon on the right side of the screen.

The first time you turn captions on, you may get this message.
The first time you turn captions on, you may get this message.

  • Depending on the length of your video and the power of your phone, it may take a moment or two for TikTok to process your captions. Keep in mind that auto captions will not work for sung music that has been added to your video; this is for speech only.
  • Once your audio has been processed, you’ll be taken to a screen that has a smaller version of the video with the captions listed underneath.
  • If you’re happy with the captions, tap the “Save” button in the top right corner.
  • If you’re not happy with them — because there are misspellings, or wrong words — you can edit them. Tap the edit icon (that looks like a pencil and a piece of paper) to the right of the word “Captions.” You can then use your phone’s keyboard to change any textual problems.
The Captions screen will show you what your captions will look like.
The Captions screen will show you what your captions will look like.

After you’ve tapped on the pencil icon, you can correct any textual mistakes.
After you’ve tapped on the pencil icon, you can correct any textual mistakes.

  • You can also split lines that you think are too long — however, you can’t join lines that you think are too short. If you accidentally split a line and change your mind, you’ll have to hit your phone’s back button, discard your edits, and try again.
  • Tap on “Save” when you’re done.

Unfortunately, you can’t stylize your captions — you’re pretty much stuck with what you get, which tends to be white lettering on a slightly darkened rectangle. If you want to get fancy with your captions, then you’ll have to disable the auto caption feature (using the same Caption icon) and use the Text feature (which is at the bottom of the edit screen) to manually create captions in a variety of colors, sizes, and typefaces.

Disable captions for videos you’re watching

I personally love having captions on videos, but some people find them distracting. If you don’t want captions on your TikTok videos, you can disable them. (Of course, you won’t be actually getting rid of them, just hiding them on your device.)

To hide captions, tap on the caption and then on the “Hide captions” bubble.
To hide captions, tap on the caption and then on the “Hide captions” bubble.

To restore captions, tape on the little rectangle on the side of the screen.
To restore captions, tap on the little rectangle on the side of the screen.

  • While you’re watching a captioned video, tap on the caption, and then on “Hide captions.”
  • Auto captions will not be turned off for all the videos you watch. There will be a small rectangle to the side of each video to indicate that it normally has captions.
  • If you want to re-enable captions, just tap on that rectangle.

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