Welcome to the Netflix Partner Help Center. Have a question or need help with an issue? Send us a ticket and we'll help you to a resolution.

English Timed Text Style Guide

*This document covers the language specific requirements for English. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements Section for comprehensive guidelines surrounding Timed Text deliveries to Netflix.  

I. Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH)
This section applies to subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing created for English language content. For English subtitles for non-English language content, please see Section II

I.1. Accuracy of content

  • Include as much of the original content as possible.
  • Do not simplify or water down the original dialogue.
  • Truncating the original dialogue should be limited to instances where reading speed and synchronicity to the audio are an issue.
  • Transcription of the source language should follow the word choice and sentence order of the spoken dialect.

I.2. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

I.3. Continuity

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

Subtitle 1   I always knew

Subtitle 2   that you would eventually agree with me. 

  • Use ellipses to indicate a pause or dialogue trailing off. In the case of a pause, if the sentence continues in the next subtitle, do not use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.

Subtitle 1   Had I known...

Subtitle 2   I wouldn’t have called you.

  • Use two hyphens to indicate abrupt interruptions.

-What are you--
-Be quiet!

             -What are you--
             -[bomb explodes]

  • Use an ellipsis followed by a space when there is a significant pause within a subtitle. 

She hesitated… about accepting the job.

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

...have signed an agreement.

I.4. Documentary

  • 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.
  • Avoid going back and forth between italicized and non-italicized subtitles when the speaker is on and off screen in a documentary. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators.

 

I.5. Dual Speakers/Multiple Events

  • Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.

-Are you coming?
-In a minute.

  • When identifiers are needed, they should follow the hyphen as follows:

            -[Kimmy] Are you coming?
            -[Titus] In a minute.

            -[Kimmy] Are you coming?
            -In a minute.

  • Hyphens are also used to indicate a speaker and a sound effect, if they come from different sources:

            -[Joe laughing hysterically]
            -[Maria] I can't believe you did that!

            -[Joe laughing hysterically]
            -I can't believe you did that!

  • If the sound effect emanates from the speaker themselves, no hyphens are needed:

             [Joe laughing hysterically]
             I can't believe you did that!

  • Use hyphens to distinguish two distinct sound effects emanating from different sources:

       -[horse neighs]
       -[engine starts]

 

I.6. 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

 

I.7. Foreign Dialogue

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [in Spanish]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [speaking Spanish]
    • Always research the language being spoken – [speaking foreign language] should never be used
  • When using foreign words, always verify spelling, accents and punctuation, if applicable.
  • Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases should be italicized.
  • Familiar foreign words and phrases which are listed in Webster’s dictionary should not be italicized and should be spelled as in Webster’s dictionary (e.g., bon appétit, rendezvous, doppelgänger, zeitgeist, etc.).
  • Proper names, such as foreign locations or company names, should not be italicized.

I.8. Italics

  • Italicize the following:
    • Voice-overs such as not-in-scene narrators or the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts
    • Song lyrics when sung, not quoted (if rights have been granted)
    • Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases
    • Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television, or computer
    • Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s), not merely off screen or off camera
    • Titles of books, periodicals, works of art, albums, movies, TV shows, radio shows. (For an episode title in a series, use quotation marks)
  • Italics may be used when a word is obviously emphasized in speech and when proper punctuation cannot convey that emphasis (e.g., It was)

I.9. Line Treatment

  • Maximum two lines.

I.10. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: one, two, three, etc.
  • Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc.
  • When a number begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out.
  • Times of day:
    • Use numerals when exact times are emphasized: 9:30 a.m.
    • Use lowercase a.m. (ante meridiem) and p.m. (post meridiem) when mentioned in dialogue
    • Spell out words/phrases that do not include actual numbers: half past, quarter of, midnight, noon
    • When o’clock is mentioned in dialogue, always spell out the number: eleven o’clock in the morning
  • 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.

I.11. Quotes

  • Quoted words, phrases and sentences are enclosed in double quotation marks; single quotation marks enclose quotations within quotations. 

He told me: "Come back tomorrow."

He said: "'Singing in the Rain' is my favorite song."

  • If the quote extends beyond more than one subtitle, use an open quote at the beginning of the first subtitle and an end quote at the end of the last subtitle.

Subtitle 1   "Good night, good night!

Subtitle 2   Parting is such sweet sorrow

Subtitle 3   that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

  • Use U.S. English rules:
    • Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
    • Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks.
    • Question marks and exclamation points follow quotation marks unless they belong within the quoted text: 

Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, "Good night, good night"?

Juliet said, "Good night, good night!" 

  • Song titles should be enclosed in quotes.

I.12. Reading Speed

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

I.13. Songs

  • Subtitle all audible song lyrics that do not interfere with dialogue.
  • Use song title identifiers when applicable - song titles should be in quotes:
    ["Forever Your Girl" playing]
  • Italicize lyrics.
  • Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle.
  • Use an uppercase letter at the beginning of each line.
  • Use ellipses 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.

I.14. Speaker ID / Sound Effects

  • Use brackets [ ] to enclose speaker IDs or sound effects.
  • Use all lowercase, except for proper nouns.
  • Only use speaker IDs or sound effects when they cannot be visually identified.
  • When a speaker ID is required for a character who has yet to be identified by name, use [man] or [woman], or [male voice] or [female voice], so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.
  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music (e.g., rock music playing over a stereo).
  • Sound effects should be plot-pertinent.
  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

             Subtitle 1: However, lately, I've been...
                             [coughs, sniffs]

             Subtitle 2:  ...seeing a lot more of this.

  • Never italicize speaker IDs or sound effects, even when the spoken information is italicized, such as in a voice-over. 

[narrator]
Once upon a time, there was…

I.15. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored.
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
  • When transcribing usage within the English audio: the n-word should on be spelled with the -er ending in historical contexts or as a racist slur; its use in slang, non-racist conversation, or song lyrics should be handled with the -a ending.

I.16. Reference

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

 
II. English Subtitles
This section applies to English subtitles created for non-English language content. For subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for English language content, please see Section I.

II.1. Abbreviations

  • A.D. - Anno Domini
  • B.C. - Before Christ
  • a.m. - ante meridian
  • p.m.- post meridian
  • Mr. - Mister
  • Mrs. - Missus
  • Dr. - Doctor
  • Prof. - Professor
  • Lt.- Lieutenant
  • Capt. - Captain
  • Maj. - Major
  • Col. - Colonel
  • Gen. - General
  • e.g. - exampli gratia
  • i.e. - id est
  • etc. - et cetera
  • ft. - feet
  • in. - inches

II.2. Acronyms

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

II.3. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

II.4. Character Names

  • Do not translate proper names 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).
  • When translating Korean content, the name order should be last name-first name, in accordance with Korean rules. For South Korean names, first name should be connected with a hyphen, with second letter in lower case (i.e 김희선: Kim Hee-sun), and North Korean names, first name is written without a hyphen (i.e. Kim Jong Un).

II.5. Continuity

  • Do not 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    I always knew

            Subtitle 2    that you would eventually agree with me.

  • Use ellipses to indicate a pause or dialogue trailing off. In the case of a pause, if the sentence continues in the next subtitle, do not use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.

            Subtitle 1    Had I known...

            Subtitle 2    I wouldn’t have called you.

  • Use two hyphens to indicate abrupt interruptions.

           -What are you--

           -Be quiet!

  • Use ellipses followed by a space when there is a significant pause within a subtitle.

            She hesitated… about accepting the job.

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

            ...have signed an agreement.

II.6. Documentary

  • For non-English source languages using the Latin alphabet, only the speaker’s title should be translated. 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 in the documentary.
  • When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, use 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       I worked on this movie…

Subtitle 2 (FN)  DIRECTOR

Subtitle 3        …for a total of six months.

  • 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.
  • Avoid going back and forth between italicized and non-italicized subtitles when the speaker is on and off screen in a documentary. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators.

II.7. Dual Speakers

  • Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.

          -Are you coming?
          -In a minute.

II.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 

II.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         I don’t think we should…

Subtitle 2 (FN) NO TRESPASSING

Subtitle 3         …go any further.

II.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.
  • Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases should be italicized.
  • Familiar foreign words and phrases which are listed in Webster’s dictionary should not be italicized and should be spelled as in Webster’s dictionary (e.g., bon appétit, rendezvous, doppelgänger, zeitgeist, etc.).
  • Proper names, such as foreign locations or company names, should not be italicized.

II.11. Italics

  • Italicize the following:
    • Voice-overs such as not-in-scene narrators or the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts
    • Song lyrics when sung, not quoted (if rights have been granted)
    • Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases
    • Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television, or computer
    • Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s), not merely off screen or off camera
    • Titles of books, periodicals, works of art, albums, movies, TV shows, radio shows. (For an episode title in a series, use quotation marks)
  • Italics may be used when a word is obviously emphasized in speech and when proper punctuation cannot convey that emphasis (e.g., It was)

II.12. Line Treatment

  • Maximum two lines.

II.13. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: one, two, three, etc.
  • Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc.
  • When a number begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out.
  • Times of day:
    • Use numerals when exact times are emphasized: 9:30 a.m.
    • Use lowercase a.m. (ante meridiem) and p.m. (post meridiem) when mentioned in dialogue
    • Spell out words/phrases that do not include actual numbers: half past, quarter of, midnight, noon
    • When o’clock is mentioned in dialogue, always spell out the number: eleven o’clock in the morning
  • 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.

II.14. Quotes

  • Quoted words, phrases and sentences are enclosed in double quotation marks; single quotation marks enclose quotations within quotations. 

He told me: "Come back tomorrow."

He said: "'Singing in the Rain' is my favorite song."

  • If the quote extends beyond more than one subtitle, use an open quote at the beginning of the first subtitle and an end quote at the end of the last subtitle.

Subtitle 1   "Good night, good night!

Subtitle 2   Parting is such sweet sorrow

Subtitle 3   that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

  • Use U.S. English rules:
    • Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
    • Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks.
    • Question marks and exclamation points follow quotation marks unless they belong within the quoted text: 

Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, "Good night, good night"?

Juliet said, "Good night, good night!" 

  • Song titles should be enclosed in quotes.

II.15. Reading Speed

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

II.16. 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.

II.17. 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 an uppercase letter at the beginning of each line.
  • Use 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.

II.18. 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.

II.19. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored.
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
  • The slur "nigger" should only be spelled as such in a historical or contextually racist context. Its use in slang, non-racist conversation, or song lyrics should be handled as "nigga".

II.20. Reference

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

 



Change Log:

2018-07-19

Revised section I.1 Accuracy of content – fourth bulled added for dialectal treatment

2018-06-25

Revised section II.19 Special Instructions – fourth bullet revised for clarity

2018-06-04

Revised section II.9 On-screen Text – section header revised for clarity

2018-03-09

Revised section I.3 Continuity – example added to 3rd bullet point
Revised section I.4 Documentary – 1st bullet point revised, 2nd bullet point added
Revised section I.5 Dual Speakers/Multiple Events – 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th bullet points added
Section 7 Forced Narratives – moved to Section II
Revised section I.7 Foreign Dialogue – 1st bullet point added
Added section I.9 Line Treatment
Revised section I.10 Numbers – 5th bullet point revised
Revised section I.12 Reading Speed – words per minute removed
Revised section I.14 Speaker ID / Sound Effects – 4th and 7th bullet points added
Added section II English Subtitles

2016-05-15

Revised section 10 Numbers – 4th bullet point revised for clarity
Revised section 13 Songs – 8th bullet point revised
Revised section 14 Speaker ID / Sound Effects – 7th bullet point – 3rd item added

2015-12-07

Revised section 7.13 Songs – 1st bullet point revised. 2nd bullet point added

 

PROVIDE FEEDBACK ON THIS STYLE GUIDE

 

Was this article helpful?
73 out of 75 found this helpful