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Dutch Timed Text Style Guide

This document covers the language specific requirements for Dutch. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements section and related guidelines for comprehensive instructions surrounding timed text deliveries to Netflix.

For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to:

For guidance on sensitive translation strategies, please refer to specific guidance provided by your vendor PM team as well as:


1. Abbreviations

  • Professor: prof
  • Meneer: Mr/ M
  • Mevrouw: Mrs / mevr or mw
  • Juffrouw: Miss / mej or mv
  • Jurist (for instance a lawyer): mr.
  • Dokter/doctor: dr. (dokter is preferable for medical doctor)

2. Acronyms

  • Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, USA, UK

3. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

4. Character Names

  • Do not translate proper names (e.g. Peter, Suzanne), unless Netflix provides approved translations.
  • Nicknames should only be translated if they convey a specific meaning.
  • Use language-specific translations for historical/mythical characters (e.g. Santa Claus).

5. Continuity

  • When including ellipses in subtitles, please use the single smart character (U+2026) as opposed to three dots/periods in a row.
  • Use ellipses without spaces at the end and at the beginning of subtitles when an ongoing sentence is split between two or more continuous subtitles.

Subtitle 1   In Nederland gebruiken we puntjes

Subtitle 2  als de ondertitel wordt gesplitst.

  • Also use ellipses to indicate pauses (2 seconds or more) or abrupt interruptions.

Dat is vreemd

  • Use an ellipsis without a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence

op hun eigen unieke manier. 

6. Documentary/Unscripted

  • Speaker's title: only translate the title. Do not include the speaker's name, company name or character name as these are redundant.
  • Only translate a speaker's title once, the first time the speaker appears.
  • When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, use ellipses at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence in the subtitle that follows it.

Subtitle 1         Ik heb zes jaar

Subtitle 2 (FN)  REGISSEUR

Subtitle 3        aan deze film gewerkt.

  • Dialogue in TV/movie clips should only be subtitled if plot-pertinent and if the rights have been granted.
  • News tickers/banners from archive clips do not require subtitles unless plot-pertinent.

7. Dual Speakers

  • If two characters speak in one subtitle, use a hyphen without a space to denote the second speaker only. There should never be more than one speaker per line.
  • The text of the first speaker should never be left out. If, during fast dialogue, the first speaker says something that seems unimportant (such as only a name, or "Yeah"), it is often better to spot the in-time to the audio of the second speaker. If that does not work, do translate the first speaker’s text as leaving the text out would mean reading the second speaker’s line before it is said.
  • Text in each line in a dual speaker subtitle must be a contained sentence and should not carry into the preceding or subsequent subtitle. Creating shorter sentences and timing appropriately helps to accommodate this.

Wanneer kom je aan?


8. Font Information

  • Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportionalSansSerif
  • Font size: Relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across screen
  • Font color: White

9. On-screen Text

  • Forced narrative titles for on-screen text should only be included if plot-pertinent.
  • When on-screen text and dialogue overlap, precedence should be given to the most plot pertinent message. Avoid over truncating or severely reducing reading speed in order to include both dialogue and on-screen text.
  • The duration of the FN subtitle should as much as possible mimic the duration of the on-screen text, except for cases where reading speed and/or surrounding dialogue takes precedence.
  • Forced narratives that are redundant (e.g., identical to onscreen text or covered in the dialogue) must be deleted.
  • Forced narratives for on-screen text should be in ALL CAPS, except for long passages of on screen text (e.g. prologue or epilogue), which should use sentence case to improve readability.
  • Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle.
  • When a forced narrative interrupts dialogue, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence in the subtitle that follows it.

Subtitle 1         Ik denk niet


Subtitle 3        dat we verder moeten gaan.

10. Foreign Dialogue

  • Foreign dialogue should only be translated if the viewer was meant to understand it (i.e. if it was subtitled in the original version).
  • When using foreign words, always verify spelling, accents and punctuation, if applicable.
  • Foreign words should be italicized, unless they have become part of regular usage (e.g. in English, the following no longer need to be italicized: bon appétit, rendezvous, doppelgänger, zeitgeist, persona non grata) and unless they are proper names (e.g. a company name).

11. Italics

  • Italicize the following:
    • Album, book, film and program titles (use quotes for song titles)
    • Foreign words (unless they are part of regular usage)
    • Song lyrics (if rights have been granted)
  • Do not italicize the following:
    • Electronic media, such as a phone, television, or computer
    • Off-screen speech
    • Voice-overs
  • Do not use italics to indicate emphasis on specific words.
  • Emphasis on pronouns can be achieved by writing them in full (mijn/zijn) when they are stressed and contracting them when they are not (m’n/z’n), e.g. Hij pakte z’n biezen. As opposed to, Omdat mijn auto niet wilde starten hebben we die van hem genomen.

12. Line Treatment

  • Maximum two lines.
  • Text should usually be kept to one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation.
  • Prefer a bottom-heavy pyramid shape for subtitles when multiple line break options present themselves, but avoid having just one or two words on the top line.
  • If a subtitle has two lines, the break between the two lines should be at a logical point. The same goes when a sentence is divided over two subtitles: For example: Ik ga graag aapjes kijken in de dierentuin… …maar de leeuwen vind ik veel te eng.

13. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: één, twee, drie, etc.
  • Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc, except for the tens (twenty, thirty, etc.) unless they are combined with units or measures (‘Dat heb ik al twintig keer gezegd.’ versus ‘De volgende afslag is 20 km verderop.’).
  • When a number begins a sentence, it should be spelled out, unless the full form exceeds the number of characters allowed.
  • Note that the above rules may be broken due to space limitations or reading speed concerns, as well as for consistency when listing multiple quantities, for example.
  • Measurements should be converted to the metric system, unless the original unit of measurement is plot relevant.

14. Punctuation

  • There should be no spaces before punctuation marks.
  • Use an uppercase letter after a colon for quotes only; all other instances do not require an uppercase letter.

en hij zei: 'Dit gaat goed.'     BUT  en je denkt: dit gaat goed.

  • Thoughts, however, are never followed by an uppercase letter or quotation marks.

en je denkt: dit gaat goed.


  • Quotes should be used at the start and end of a line of applicable dialogue and not at the start of every subtitle.
  • Use single quotation marks (' ') without spaces for regular quotations.

Hij zei: ‘Kom morgen maar terug.’

  • Use double quotation marks (" ") for quotes within quotes.

'Charlie zei het: "Alles is in orde."' 

  • Punctuation should be included within the quotation marks if the quote is an independent clause and outside if it’s not.
  • Song titles should be in quotes.
  • Use quotation marks when a character is seen to be reading aloud.
  • If an on-screen character does “air quotes” when speaking, please apply quotation marks to the equivalent word in the target language in order to retain creative intent and to help ensure clarity about which word or part of the sentence the air quotes apply to.

16. Reading Speed

  • Adult programs: 17 characters per second
  • Children’s programs: 13 characters per second

17. Repetitions

  • It is often better not to translate words or phrases repeated more than once by the same speaker.
  • If the repeated word or phrase is said twice in a row, time the subtitle to audio, but translate only once.

18. Songs

  • Only subtitle plot-pertinent songs if the rights have been granted.
  • Opening and ending theme songs should only be subtitled if clearly plot pertinent (e.g. for children’s content when the lyrics tell a story) or if instructed by Netflix. Normally, adult programs should not have the opening songs subtitled, except for SDH.
  • Italicize lyrics.
  • Use a lowercase letter at the beginning of each line, unless the first word is a proper noun.
  • Use an ellipsis when a song continues in the background but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue.
  • Punctuation: only question marks and exclamation marks should be used at the end of a line – no commas or periods. Commas can be used within the lyric line, if necessary.
  • Album titles should be in italics.
  • Song titles should be in quotes.
  • Follow this approach for poetry also.

19. Titles

  • Main titles: do not subtitle the on-screen main title card.
  • Episode titles: do not subtitle episode titles if they do not appear on screen/are not voiced-over. If on-screen (either as part of the principal photography or burned into video) or voiced-over, please reference the KNP tool for approved translations.
  • Titles of published works, existing movies and TV shows: use official or well-known translations. If none are available, leave titles in the original language.

20. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored. Expletives should be rendered as faithfully as possible.
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • Always match the tone of the original content, while remaining relevant to the target audience (e.g. replicate tone, register, class, formality, etc. in the target language in an equivalent way).
  • In order to better meet the expectations of a Dutch audience, a condensed translation style is required. Subtitles should be merged as much as possible whenever a character’s dialogue extends over several subtitles. Character names may be left out, once they have been clearly established, to avoid unnecessary repetition and to improve reading speed. Timings from the template can be adjusted to suit this requirement.
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot pertinent.
  • Avoid using Anglicisms, but do not translate English words that have become part of regular usage in Dutch. For instance, bucket list is not a loodjeslijst. It should be kept in English.
  • When brand names or trademarks appear, you may either; use the same name if it is known in the territory you are translating for; adapt to the name that the brand or product is known by that the territory you are translating for; or use a generic name for that product or item. Avoid swapping out names of brands, companies or famous people for other names.
  • In exceptional cases (when there is not enough space or in cases of time constraint), the words het, hem, eens and een may be shortened to 't, 'm, 's and 'n respectively. Hem is also contracted when referring to animals and things:
    • Question: Wat was dat voor hond? Response: Geen idee, ik zag 'm niet. Question: Wat moet ik met die auto doen? Response: Ik zou 'm naar de sloop brengen. (It is also contracted in set expressions like: Hij is 'm gesmeerd.)

21. Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) Guidelines

  • Include as much of the original content as possible.
  • Do not simplify or water down the original dialogue.
  • Where content has been dubbed into Dutch, please refer to the dubbing script or dubbed audio as the basis for the SDH file and ensure that the two match as much as reading speed and timings allow.
  • Reading speed can be increased to:
    • Adult programs: 20 characters per second
    • Children’s programs: 17 characters per second
  • Truncating the original dialogue should be limited to instances where reading speed and synchronicity to the audio are an issue.
  • For TV/movie clips, all audible lines should be transcribed, if possible. If the audio interferes with dialogue, please give precedence to most plot-pertinent content.
  • All same-language audible songs that do not interfere with dialogue should be titled, if the rights have been granted.
  • Use song title identifiers when applicable - song titles should be in quotes: ['Forever Your Girl' speelt]
  • Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle.
  • Add a space between the music note and the preceding or subsequent text.
  • When a dual speaker subtitle appears in a song, e.g. when there is a duet, each line of sung text should have a music note at the beginning and end to clearly indicate that both characters are singing.
  • Use brackets [ ] to enclose speaker IDs or sound effects.
  • Identifiers/sound effects should be all lowercase, except for proper nouns.
  • Only use speaker IDs or sound effects when they cannot be visually identified.
  • When characters are not yet identified, use [man], [vrouw], [vrouwenstem] so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.
  • Gender-neutral identifiers like [nieuwslezer], [dokter] or [verkoper] can be used when appropriate.
  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music, e.g. [rockmuziek speelt] or [rustige jazzmuziek op de radio]
  • Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
  • Subtitle silence if plot-pertinent. For example, when plot-pertinent music ends abruptly.
  • Be detailed and descriptive, use adverbs where appropriate when describing sounds and music, describe voices, speed of speech, volume of sounds.
  • Describe the sounds and audio as opposed to visual elements or actions.
  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

Subtitle 1: De laatste tijd heb ik dit…

                  [hoest, snuift]

Subtitle 2: …veel vaker gezien.

  • Never italicize speaker IDs or sound effects, even when the spoken information is italicized.
  • Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue should ideally be on the same line.

[verteller] Er was eens…

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [in het Spaans]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [spreekt Spaans] or [name in het Spaans]
    • Always research the language being spoken – [spreekt vreemde taal] should never be used


Change Log:


  • Revised section 1 Abbreviations - 6th and 7th bullet points added
  • Revised section 7 Dual Speakers - 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 11 Italics - 4th bullet point added
  • Revised section 13 Numbers - 2nd and 3rd bullet points edited
  • Revised section 15 Quotes - 7th bullet point added
  • Revised section 12 Line Treatment - 3rd and 4th bullet points added
  • Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 4th bullet point edited, 7th and 8th bullet points added
  • Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - 10th and 11th bullet points added




  • Revised section 5 Continuity - 1st bullet added clarifying the type of ellipsis permitted
  • Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - 3rd bullet point reworded



  • Revised section 22 Reference - 2nd bullet added


  • Revised section 1 Abbreviations - removed periods after abbreviations
  • Revised section 9 On-screen Text - revised header for clarity


  • Revised section 1 Abbreviations - rewritten for clarity
  • Revised section 6 Documentary - 4th, 5th and 6th bullet points added
  • Revised section 9 Forced Narratives - 2nd and 3rd bullet points added, 5th bullet point revised
  • Added section 12 Line Treatment
  • Revised section 13 Numbers - 4th and 5th bullet points revised
  • Added section 15 Quotes - rewritten for clarity, 4th bullet point revised
  • Revised section 16 Reading Speed - words per minute removed
  • Revised section 17 Repetitions - 1st point revised for clarity
  • Revised section 18 Songs - 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 19 Titles - 1st and 2nd bullet points revised
  • Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - renamed and expanded for clarity


  • Revised section 9 Forced Narratives - 3rd bullet point revised
  • Revised section 17 Songs - 5th bullet point revised
  • Revised section 18 Titles - 1st bullet point revised, 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 19 Special Instructions - 4th bullet point removed




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