Best practices for captioning on-screen terms

May 14, 2018

Hello! I am enjoying the addition of the closed captioning feature in Storyline, and am adding captions to old courses.  I have a question about the correct way to format the caption when you are mentioning on-screen text. Let me give an example. A course narrator might say: "To start a new email message, click the Compose button."  

Would you capitalize the word "compose"? Would you put it in quotes or emphasize it in some way?  

Here's another example of audio narration: "After reading the privacy policy, click on 'I Agree.'"

How would you format the words "I Agree" in the closed caption?


5 Replies
Jackie Van Nice

Hi Carol! 

Good questions! It’s the kind of thing where a convention simply needs to be adopted and used consistently by an organization. Someone needs to decide what to do and stick with it.

In general, I think it’s a good idea to use the same capitalization on the button (or other object) as you would in any reference to it. (Might be a judgment call if the button or object was in all caps, but you get the idea.) 

In my experience some companies, especially with software training, may also want all references to buttons to be bolded. It’d not a matter of right or wrong - just a decision someone needs to make and maintain as a rule.

By the way, you’ll notice Articulate seems to bold their button/object references and match their cases, too, as seen in this example.

Personally, I’ve not seen button references put into quotes and I really wouldn’t want to see that.

And of course underlining text for emphasis in a digital format is a big no-no since that convention is best reserved to indicate a hyperlink.

I hope that helps, Carol. Best of luck with your CC-ing! :)


Ray Cole

I agree with a lot of Jackie's advice. For all instructional writing (not just closed captions) I favor the following conventions:

  • References to screen objects (buttons, links, tabs, etc.) are typeset in bold.
  • If the button is labeled with some text (most are), then the text on the button (or tab or whatever) is the object's proper name. Refer to such objects by name only (e.g., "Click Next to continue" not "Click the Next button to continue."). Like any other proper name, the object's name should be capitalized.
  • Never "click on"; just "click" (e.g., "Click Next to continue," not "Click on Next to continue."). Similarly, never "drag on" or "click and drag"; just "drag."

These conventions keep instructions short and uncluttered. They have served me well over many years.



Ray Cole

Hi Garth, wow! I've never encountered two buttons named the same thing on the same screen, but I have come across screens that have both a button and a tab with the same name on the same screen. In those (thankfully rare) cases, I did have to distinguish between the button and the tab by writing "Click the Options tab to <do whatever>" instead of "Click Options to <do whatever>." Usually referencing objects by name alone works best, though.



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