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Arabic Timed Text Style Guide

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

1. Arabic Language Style

  • Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) should be used for translation. Please refrain from using any dialectical words. When there is no alternative to the word in Modern Standard Arabic, use the word closest in meaning.

2. Acronyms

  • If names that are acronyms are transliterated, add double quotes (e.g., "NBC", "CIA").

3. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

4. Character Names

  • Proper names should be transliterated. Do not translate unless approved translations are provided by Netflix.
  • Nicknames should be transliterated. Only translate if the nickname conveys a specific  meaning relevant to viewers.
  • Use language-specific translations for historical/mythical characters (e.g. Santa Claus).

5. Continuity

  • Do not use ellipses or dashes when a sentence is split between two continuous subtitles.
  • Use ellipses to indicate pauses (2 seconds or more).
  • Use an ellipsis without a space in the first subtitle when there is a pause (2 seconds or more) in a sentence running over two subtitles.
  • Use ellipses without a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence. 
  • A sentence that is interrupted by a second speaker and then continues must have ellipses before and after the interruption.
  • Incomplete speech should end with an ellipsis.
  • When including ellipses in subtitles, please use the single smart character (U+2026) as opposed to three dots/periods in a row.

6. Documentary/Unscripted

  • Only translate a speaker’s title once, the first time the speaker appears.
  • When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, do not 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.
  • 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

  • Use a hyphen followed by a space if two characters speak in one subtitle with a maximum of one character speaking per line.
  • 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.

.علينا أن نعود إلى المنزل قبل غروب الشمس -                                         

لماذا؟ -                                         

8. Font Information

  • Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportional SansSerif
  • 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 should be enclosed in double straight quotes (" "), except for foreign dialogue.
  • If a forced narrative for on-screen text extends across multiple subtitles, use one set of quotes for each subtitle.
  • Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle.
  • When a forced narrative interrupts dialogue, do not 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.

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).
  • Foreign words or phrases should be translated when possible (i.e. hello, goodbye, thank you, merci) or transliterated when no accurate translation exists.

11. Italics

  • Do not use italics.

12. Line Treatment

  • Maximum two lines.
  • Text should usually be kept to one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation.


  • Quotes should be used at the start and end of every line of applicable dialogue and not at the start of every subtitle.
  • Use quotes when characters are seen to be reading aloud.
  • Use double straight quotation marks " " without spaces for regular quotations.
  • Use parentheses ( ) for quotes within quotes.
  • Punctuation should be included within the quotation marks if the quote is an independent clause and outside if it’s not.
  • Direct speech is introduced by a colon or a comma. Either may be used, but must be used consistently throughout.
  • Use double quotes for proper names of persons and places.
  • A "kashidah" should be added to the article when it comes before double quotation or brackets:

wrong format: "ال"برونكس
right format: "الـ"برونكس

14. Reading Speed

  • Adult programs: 20 characters per second
  • Children’s programs: 17 characters per second

15. Repetitions

  • Do not 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 subtitle to the audio but translate only once.

16. 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.
  • 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.
  • Use double quotes for song lyrics and song titles.
  • Double quotes are only needed at the beginning and the end of a song, or portion of a song if interrupted by dialogue.
  • Follow the same treatment for any sections of poetry.

17. 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, transliterate the titles.

18. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue (including expletives) should be rendered as faithfully as possible, without using dialect or words that would otherwise introduce a level of obscenity not implied in the content.
  • 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)
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • The use of Arabic diacritics (Al Harakat) is required, but should be limited to:
    • Tanween Al Fateh: For Netflix, we put Tanween on the letter before the Alef for technical issues due to line heights that create overlapping in many cases. Do not put Tanween on Hamza and Taa marbuta unless its absence would affect the meaning.
    • Shaddah: Shaddah is required only if missing it can change the meaning of the word.
    • Dammah should be used when the verb is in the passive voice
      • "يُرمى" "يُدعى" "يُكتب"
  • Months of the year must follow the Gregorian calendar.
  • Percentage (%) has to be spelled out to ensure correct sentence formatting. Example: 20% should be written as:

  • Numbers must always be written numerically: 1, 6, 18, etc., even at the beginning of a sentence or for any reference to clock time.
  • Measurements should be converted to the metric system, unless the original unit of measurement is plot relevant.

19. 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 Arabic, 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: 23 characters per second
    • Children’s programs: 20 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:

["أغنية "فوريفر يور غيرل]

  • Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle.
  • 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 the following so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.

[امرأة] - [رجل]

[صوت رجل] - [صوت امرأة]

  • Gender-neutral identifiers would follow the gender of the voice heard:

[طبيب] - [طبيبة] - [بائع] - [بائعة]

  • Where there is more than one person with the same identifier speaking in a sequence:

[رجل 2] - [رجل]

  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music:

["موسيقى "روك]

[موسيقى "جاز" هادئة عبر المذياع]

  • Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
  • Use conjugated verbs in the correct form: [تصرخ/يصرخ]
  • 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.
  • When explaining sound cues, the indefinite form of the word should be used without adding any definite articles. Such as:

[زقزقة عصافير]

[خرير مياه]

  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

Subtitle 1: 

…لكنني مؤخرًا، بدأت

[يسعل، يتنشق]

Subtitle 2:

أرى المزيد من هذه الحالات…

  • Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue can be on the same line, or:


 كان يا مكان في قديم الزمان…

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [بالإسبانية]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [يتكلم الإسبانية] - [تتكلم الإسبانية] (Ensure that pronouns and conjugation of the verb follow the context)
    • Always research the language being spoken – [يتكلم لغة أجنبية] should never be used

20. Reference

Change Log:



  • Revised section 7 Dual speaker subtitles - 2nd bullet added
  • Revised section 12 Line treatment - 2nd bullet added
  • Revised section 13 Quotes - 2nd bullet added regarding reading aloud
  • Revised section 16 Songs - 7th bullet added regarding poetry treatment


  • Revised section 5 Continuity - final bullet point added specifying ellipsis type
  • Revised section 19 SDH Guidelines - wording around aligning with dubbing revised





  • Revised section 9 On-screen Text - revised 6th bullet for clarity
  • Revised section 13 Quotes - 1st bullet rewritten for clarity


  • Revised section 9 On-screen Text - revised from former Forced Narrative header


  • Revised section 1 Arabic Language Style - Classical Arabic removed
  • Revised section 4 Character Names - Rewritten for clarity
  • Revised section 6 Documentary - 3rd and 4th bullet points added
  • Revised section 10 Forced Narrative - 2nd, 3rd and 5th bullet points added
  • Revised section 13 Quotes - Rewritten for clarity
  • Revised section 15 Repetitions - 1st point revised for clarity
  • Revised section 16 Songs - 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 17 Titles - 1st and 2nd bullet points revised
  • Section 18 Profanity Treatment removed
  • Revised section 18 Special Instructions - 1st and 4th bullet points added, 3rd bullet point revised, 5th bullet point removed
  • Section 19 SDH Guidelines added
  • Revised section 20 Reference - 5th and 6th bullet points removed


  • Revised section 9 Foreign Dialogue - 2nd bullet point revised
  • Revised section 10 Forced Narrative - 3rd bullet point added
  • Revised section 14 Reading Speed - reading speed parameter increased
  • Revised section 17 Titles - 1st bullet point revised, 2nd bullet point added


  • Revised section 2.7 Dual Speakers - 2nd bullet point deleted

  • Revised section 2.10 Forced Narrative - 4th (last) bullet point revised

  • Revised section 2.13 Quotes - 2nd bullet point and 9th (last) bullet point revised

  • Revised section 2.16 Songs - 4th bullet point revised. 5th (last) bullet point added

  • Revised section 2.19 Special Instructions - 3rd bullet point, 5th bullet point and 7th bullet point revised. 2nd, 8th and 9th bullet points deleted




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