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Simplified Chinese (PRC) Timed Text Style Guide

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

1. Character Limitation

  • 16 characters per line

2. Names

  • If approved translations of proper names (e.g. Peter, Suzanne) are not provided, please transliterate.
  • Nicknames should only be translated if they convey a specific meaning.
  • Use language-specific translations for historical/mythical characters (e.g. Santa Claus = 圣诞老人).
  • When introducing a cast member in a narrative, regardless of the on-screen presentation, always use the following format: John Smith – Director = (导演 约翰·史密斯)
  • When introducing an actor in a narrative, regardless of the on-screen presentation, always use the following format: Vivien Leigh – “Scarlett O’Hara” = (费雯莉饰郝思嘉)
  • Use a full-width interpunct (·)​ to mark divisions in translated foreign names to improve readability, except Korean and Japanese names, e.g. William Shakespeare = 威廉·莎士比亚. This is with the exception of occasions when an English name only mentions the initials of the first name and the middle name. In such cases, please drop the interpuncts completely in the Chinese translation, e.g. T.K. = TK

3. Continuity

  • Do not use ellipses or dashes when an ongoing sentence is split between two or more continuous subtitles.

Subtitle 1 她过来这里告诉我

Subtitle 2 她会回来

  • Use ellipses to indicate a pause (2 seconds or more) or an abrupt interruption. In the case of a pause (2 seconds or more), if the sentence continues in the next subtitle, do not use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.

Subtitle 1 –但你说⋯

Subtitle 2 –我知道他说什么

Subtitle 1 –今天的天气很⋯

Subtitle 2 –她很漂亮

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


4. 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, 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.
  • Use Chinese parentheses for on-screen text.

Subtitle 1 –我最爱海滩了 因为⋯

Subtitle 2 –(导演)

Subtitle 3 –⋯在海里游泳最好了

  • 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.

5. Dual Speakers

  • Use an English hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers 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.

6. Font Information

  • Font style: SimHei as a generic placeholder for proportionalSansSerif
  • Font size: relative to video resolution and ability to fit 16 characters across screen
  • Font color: white

7. 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 Chinese parentheses, except for foreign dialogue.
  • If the narrative is split between two or more subtitles, use parentheses at the beginning and end of each subtitle.
  • 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 follows it.

Subtitle 1 –我最爱海滩了 因为⋯

Subtitle 2 –(导演)

Subtitle 3 –⋯在海里游泳最好了

8. 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.

9. Italics

  • Do not use italics.

10. 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.

11. Numbers

  • Chinese numbers from 1 to 10 should be written out if space permits: 一 二 三
  • Use half width numbers (1, 2, 3) instead of full width numbers (1, 2, 3).
  • Do not use a comma to separate the thousandth digit where there are only four digits.
  • Do not use financially used characters (壹, 贰, 叁, etc) to represent rounded large numbers, use characters for common writing instead (e.g. 五千, 四十亿).
  • Do not mix western Arabic numerals with Chinese number characters:

[correct] 五千二百,四亿三千万

[incorrect] 五千2百,四亿3千万

  • Use Arabic numerals for apartment numbers, street numbers, phone numbers, measurements, chapter numbers, page numbers, addresses, time, flight numbers, dates.
  • For monetary amounts, use your best judgment to decide whether to use Chinese characters or numeric numbers depending on the circumstances (for example, the length of the subs). For instance, $1800 can be written as either 一千八百美元 or 1800美元.
  • For rounded times, use Chinese characters (e.g. 4 o’clock = 四點). For specific times like 4:12 pm, it should be written as 4點12分.
  • Do not use western Arabic numbers for days of the week:

[correct] 星期二

[incorrect] 星期2

  • Do not abbreviate years(e.g. 她1992年来过).
  • Measurements should be converted to the metric system, unless the original unit of measurement is plot relevant.
  • Money: Do not convert currency to RMB (e.g. $10 > 10元; £20 > 20英镑; ¢25 > 2角5分).

12. Punctuation

  • Do not use commas or periods. Use one single space instead.
  • Enumeration commas can be used for lists (e.g.  "A、B、C").
  • Question marks are required to indicate questions.
  • Only question marks or exclamation marks are allowed at the end of a line/subtitle.
  • Use a full-width colon to introduce quoted speech (e.g. 我问:“你有什么?”).
  • A colon may be used to introduce an explanation or an example (e.g. 日期:1976年8月27日)
  • Use a full-width question mark or exclamation mark when necessary.
  • For ellipsis, please use unicode U+2026 - it will display as a midline ellipsis in our platform. The unicode U+22EF is not supported.
  • Do not use:
    • A question mark with an exclamation mark (!?)
    • Double question marks (??)
    • Double exclamation marks (!!)


  • Use full width quotation marks.
  • Quotes: Double quotation marks (“”) without spaces.


  • Single quotation marks (‘') for quotes within quotes.


  • Use quotation marks at the start of the quotation and after the last line of the quotation, marking the beginning and end of the quotation (rather than the beginning and end of every subtitle within the quotation).
  • When only a portion of a sentence is in quotes, the punctuation comes after the quotation mark.


  • When a whole sentence is in quotes, the punctuation mark comes before the quotation mark.


  • Use quotation marks when a character is seen to be reading aloud.
  • Use quotation marks for poetry.
  • 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.

14. Reading Speed Limits

  • Adult programs: Up to 9 characters per second
  • Children’s programs: Up to 7 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.
  • Do not use italics or quotes for song lyrics.
  • 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.

17. Titles

  • Main titles: Subtitle the on-screen main title for branded content when the approved title for Simplified Chinese is available in KNP/Terminology and it does not match the title which appears in the card. Do not translate the main title from scratch: always use the approved title provided and wrap with title marks《》. Prefixes such as "剧名:" are not necessary except in the case of episodic titles. Do not add parentheses.
  • Do not subtitle when the on-screen main title and the approved title for Simplified Chinese are identical and fully match. (e.g. the on-screen title is already in Simplified Chinese, both read with the exact same words and spellings, etc.)
  • Subtitle when the approved title for Simplified Chinese contains a part that is transliterated/translated/transcreated/edited and does not fully match the on-screen main title. (e.g. when the on-screen title is BASTARD!! ー暗黒の破壊神ー but the approved title for Simplified Chinese is BASTARD!!暗黑破坏神)
  • When the provided translation of the main title does not work with a line break in a way that fits within the limit, the maximum character count per line or maximum line limit can be exceeded. Do not split the provided translation into multiple subtitle events.
  • Do not italicize the main title event.
  • 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.
  • When translating the on-screen episode title, use the following format:


  • Titles of published works, existing movies and TV shows: use official or well-known translations. If none are available, please transliterate.
  • The following titles should be in Chinese brackets: albums, films, songs, TV programs, newspapers, magazines, books, works of art, trilogies.


18. 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).
  • 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.

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 a Chinese dialect, 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.
  • Keep to 2 lines for dialogue, 3rd line may be used for descriptors.
  • 3 lines max for onscreen text, if necessary.
  • Character limit can be increased to 18 characters per line, as needed.
  • Reading speed limits can be increased to:
    • Adult programs: Up to 11 characters per second
    • Children’s programs: Up to 9 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 chevron quotes: [正在播放《永远是你的女孩》]
  • 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 [男人], [女人] or [男性声音], [女性声音], so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.
  • Gender-neutral identifiers like [新闻播报员], [医生] or [销售员] can be used where appropriate.
  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music. Verbs can sometimes be omitted if redundant. For example, [rock music plays] can be [摇滚乐], [gentle jazz music plays on radio] can be [收音机上的轻柔爵士乐]
  • Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
  • Subtitle silence if plot-pertinent. For example, when plot-pertinent mu
  • sic 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: 但最近 这个我见得⋯

                  [咳嗽 吸鼻涕] 

Subtitle 2: ⋯越来越多 

  • Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue should ideally be on the same line.

[旁白] 很有以前 有一个⋯

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [西班牙语]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [西班牙语]
    • Always research the language being spoken – [外语] should never be used

20. References

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

Change Log:


  • Revised section 11 Numbers - examples edited in the 7th and 8th bullet points


  • Revised section 2 Names - section renamed from "Character Names" to "Names", "John Smith" example has been edited and the final bullet point regarding interpuncts in translated names has been added
  • Revised section 11 Numbers - 5th bullet point added regarding mixing of numeral styles, 7th to 9th bullets added covering monetary amounts and dealing with numbers in times of day and days of the week
  • Revised section 17 Titles - 1st bullet expanded to cover use of title marks in main titles, example in 7th bullet updated to align with aforementioned rule change


  • Revised sections 14 Reading Speed and 19 SDH - sections edited to mention "reading speed limits" and "up to"


  • Revised section 17 Titles - "for branded content" added


  • Revised section 17 Titles - rules added/edited to include main title translations and remove references to Netflix credits


  • Revised section 13 Quotation marks - 4th bullet point reworded for clarity







  • Revised section 7 On-screen Text - revised section header for clarity


  • Revised section 4 Documentary - 4th and 5th bullet points added
  • Revised section 7 Forced Narratives - 2nd, 3rd, and 6th bullet points added, 5th bullet point rewritten
  • Revised section 11 Numbers - 7th bullet point revised
  • Revised section 12 Punctuation - 8th bullet point added
  • Revised section 15 Repetitions - 1st point revised for clarity
  • Revised section 16 Songs - 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 17 Titles - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bullet points revised
  • Revised section 19 SDH Guidelines - renamed and expanded for clarity


  • Revised section 11 Numbers - 4th bullet point revised



  • Revised section 8 Foreign Dialogue - 1st and 2nd bullet points revised
  • Revised section 12 Punctuation - 2nd and 3rd bullet points added
  • Revised section 17 Titles - 1st and 4th bullet points revised, 2nd bullet point added, 5th bullet point removed

2015-12-07 (Version 3.3 )

  • Revised section 19.1 Character Limitation
  • Revised section 19.2 Character Names - 1st, 4th and 5th bullet points revised
  • Revised section 19.4 Documentary - 3rd bullet point added
  • Revised section 19.7 Forced Narratives - 5th bullet point added
  • Revised section 19.11 Numbers - 2nd bullet point revised (“single-byte/double-byte” replaced with “half width/full width”)
  • Revised section 19.17 Titles - 2nd and 6th (last) bullet added. 5th bullet revised: (書名號) removed




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