French Timed Text Style Guide
This document covers the language specific requirements for French. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements section and related guidelines for comprehensive instructions surrounding timed text deliveries to Netflix.
- Monsieur: M. (with period)
- Madame: Mme (no period)
- Mademoiselle: Mlle (no period)
- Maître: Me (no period)
- Professeur: Pr (no period)
- Docteur: Dr (no period)
- minute: min (not mn)
Terms of address and titles should not be abbreviated when used to address somebody directly in dialogue, unless the lack of space imposes it. Neither terms of address nor unabbreviated titles take an initial cap in French:
- Bonjour, monsieur le directeur.
- C'est entendu, madame la maire.
Incorrect: Merci, M. le Gouverneur.
Correct: Merci, monsieur le gouverneur.
Correct, if not enough space: Merci, M. le gouverneur.
- Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, USA
3. Brand Names
[This does not apply to Canadian French]
- Only use brand names (e.g. BMW, Facebook) when they are directly relevant to the plot.
- In all other cases, replace the brand name with a generic term (e.g. fancy car, social network).
4. Character Limitation
- 42 characters per line
5. 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).
- Carry through any diacritics used in names and proper nouns from languages that use the Latin alphabet where their use is seen in official sources, or in the source text for fictional names.
- For example, Spanish names such as Mónica Naranjo, Pedro Almodóvar and Alejandro G. Iñárritu should retain their diacritics. Any proper names that have lost the use of accents due to cultural reasons (e.g. Jennifer Lopez) do not need them added.
- When including ellipses in subtitles, please use the single smart character (U+2026) as opposed to three dots/periods in a row.
- Do not use ellipses or dashes when an ongoing sentence is split between two or more continuous subtitles.
Subtitle 1 Je me disais bien
Subtitle 2 que tu finirais par comprendre !
- Use an ellipsis 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 Si j’avais su…
Subtitle 2 je ne t’aurais pas appelé.
Subtitle 1 - Mais j’allais te dire…
Subtitle 2 - Je ne veux pas le savoir !
- Use an ellipsis followed by a non-breaking space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence.
… ont signé un accord.
- 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 J’ai travaillé sur ce film…
Subtitle 2 (FN) RÉALISATEUR
Subtitle 3 … pendant six mois.
- 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. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators.
8. Dual Speakers
- Use a hyphen followed by a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker 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.
- Tu viens ?
- J’arrive. Donne-moi une minute.
9. Font Information
- Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportionalSansSerif
- Font size: relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across the screen
- Font color: White
10. 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, epilogue, letters, long text messages, book excerpts), which should use italics and 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 Je crois qu’on devrait…
Subtitle 2 (FN) ACCÈS INTERDIT
Subtitle 3 … rebrousser chemin.
11. 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).
- Italicize the following:
- Album, book, film and program titles (use quotes for song titles)
- Foreign words (unless they are part of regular usage)
- Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television, or computer
- Song lyrics (if rights have been granted)
- Music notes
- C'est un concerto en do mineur.
- Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s) (e.g. flashback, narration, distorted sound), not merely off screen or off camera.
- Additionally: Italics are not needed for subtitle events that belong to a dialogue continuing the previous scene or anticipating the following scene.
- Do not use italics to indicate emphasis on specific words.
13. Job titles and professional functions
- The feminine form for job titles and professional functions should be used for female characters, unless the historical and social context requires otherwise.
- While there is no general rule on the feminine form for job titles, there can be different ways of using it:
- Mark the feminine with the article, the adjective or the verb while keeping the same form in masculine as in feminine: e.g. "architecte", "artiste", "juge", "secretaire", "comptable", "garde”, "gendarme", "diplomate", “ministre”, “maire”.
- The same goes for substantives ending with an “o”: “une dactylo”, “une imprésario”, “une soprano”.
- Jobs ending with “-eur” be changed into “-euse” or “-eure”.
- Note: the feminine form “-esse” can be considered outdated ( “contrôleuse”, “docteure”, “professeure”).
- Jobs ending with “-teur” can use the feminine form “-teuse” (“toiletteuse”, “acheteuse”) or “-trice” (“réalisatrice”, “créatrice”).
- Écrivain > Écrivaine
- Chef > Cheffe
- Agent > Agent
- Auteur > Auteure or Autrice (both are acceptable)
14. 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.
- From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: un, deux, trois, etc.
- Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc.
- When a number begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out.
- 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.
- Indicate time on a 24-hour basis, using spacing as follows:
Il est 14 h [space]
Il est 14h10 [no space]
- A four-digit number should have a space, unless it is a year.
Il y avait 1 900 soldats en 1940.
- Measurements should be converted to the metric system, unless the original unit of measurement is plot-relevant.
- Parisian French:
- There should be a space before interrogation and exclamation marks.
- For semicolons and colons, there should be a space before and after the punctuation mark.
- Use a space before % and currency signs: 2 % and 5 $
- Canadian French:
- There should be no space before interrogation and exclamation marks or semicolons.
- For colons, there should be a space before and after the punctuation mark.
- Use a space before % and currency signs: 2 % and 5 $
- Quotes should be used at the start and end of a line of applicable dialogue, at the start of every subtitle, at the start and end of the last subtitle:
Subtitle 1 "Je suis hypocondriaque,
Subtitle 2 "j'ai tout le temps peur de mourir
ou de ne plus pouvoir m'exprimer.
Subtitle 3 "Je n'arrive pas à me projeter
dans le futur."
- Use double quotation marks (" ") without spaces for regular quotations:
Il m’a dit : "Reviens demain."
- Use single quotation marks (' ') for quotes within quotes:
"Il a dit : 'Tout va bien.'"
- Punctuation should be included within the quotation marks if the quote is an independent clause and outside if it’s not. See the following examples:
Il dit souvent : "Je m’en occuperai un jour."
Elle aime lire des "romans à suspense".
"Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ignore."
- 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.
18. Reading Speed
- Adult programs: 17 characters per second
- Children’s programs: 13 characters per second
- 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.
- When two characters repeat the same thing simultaneously, time the subtitle to the audio, and just translate the term/phrase once without a hyphen.
- 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 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.
- Follow this approach for poetry also.
- 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.
22. Special Instructions
- Always use accents on capital letters, whether the sentence is in all caps or in mixed case.
- Dialogue must never be censored. Expletives should be rendered as faithfully as possible. To give viewers a truly immersive experience, subtitles should render the vernacular and reflect the original creative intent.
- 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.
- Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
- A capital letter is only necessary when designating a person by their nation, e.g. un Français, their continent, e.g. une Européenne, or their city, les Parisiens. When using substantives that denote race, e.g. "noir", using lower case is recommended.
- Character names may be left out, once they have been clearly established, to avoid unnecessary repetition and to improve reading speed.
- 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
23. 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 French, 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: [musique : "Forever Your Girl"]
- 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 [homme], [femme] or [garçon], [fille], [voix masculine], [voix feminine], [médecin], [présentatrice] so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative. Try to find gender-neutral identifiers where appropriate.
- Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music, e.g. [musique rock] or [musique jazz douce à la 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: Cependant, ces derniers temps…
Subtitle 2: … j'en vois davantage.
- Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue should ideally be on the same line.
- Never italicize speaker IDs or sound effects, even when the spoken information is italicized, such as in a voice-over.
[narrateur] Il était une fois…
- In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
- If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [en espagnol]
- If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [parle espagnol]
- Always research the language being spoken – [parle une langue étrangère] should never be used
For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to:
- "TLFI" (Trésor de la langue française informatisé): http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/
- Les règles de la nouvelle orthographe: http://www.orthographe-recommandee.info/
- Revised section 10 On-Screen Text - 5th bullet point edited
- Revised section 12 Italics - 9th and 10th bullets moved down the list and edited
- Revised section 17 Quotes - 7th bullet point added
- Revised section 14 Line Treatment - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 22 Special Instructions - 8th bullet point added
- Revised section 23 SDH Guidelines - 10th and 11th bullet points added
- Revised section 23 SDH Guidelines - localized examples added
- Revised section 6 Continuity - 4th bullet point revised regarding mid-sentence pick-ups
- Revised section 7 Documentary/unscripted - example in 3rd bullet point edited
- Revised section 10 On-screen text - example in 7th bullet point edited
- Revised section 5 Character Names - 4th and 5th bullet points added
- Revised section 8 Dual Speakers - 2nd bullet point added
- New section added 13. Job titles and professional functions - subsequent sections renumbered
- Revised section 14 Line Treatment - 2nd bullet point added
- Revised section 17 Quotation marks - 1st bullet and example revised, 6th bullet point added
- Revised section 20 Songs - 9th bullet point added regarding poetry
- Revised section 22 Special instructions - 7th bullet point added
- Revised section 6 Continuity - 1st bullet added clarifying type of ellipsis permitted
- Revised section 22 SDH Guidelines - 3rd bullet reworded
- Revised section 21 Special Instructions - 3rd bullet point about tone added
- Revised section 22 SDH Guidelines - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 1 Abbreviations - reworded for clarity
- Revised section 21 Special Instructions - 5th bullet point added
- Revised section 1 Abbreviations - 7th bullet point added, additional examples provided for clarity
- Revised section 16 Quotes - example provided for 1st bullet point
- Revised section 18 Repetition - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 23 Reference - source and link updated
- Revised section 10 On-screen Text - revised section header for clarity
- Revised section 1 Abbreviations - 1st bullet point revised
- Revised section 7 Documentary - 3rd, 4th, and 5th bullet points added
- Revised section 10 Forced Narratives - 2nd and 3rd bullet points added, 5th bullet point revised
- Added section 13 Line Treatment
- Revised section 14 Numbers - 4th and 7th bullet points revised
- Revised section 15 Punctuation - revised and rewritten for clarity
- Added section 16 Quotes - rewritten for clarity
- Revised section 17 Reading Speed - words per minute removed
- Revised section 18 Repetitions - 1st point revised for clarity
- Revised section 19 Songs - 2nd bullet point added
- Revised section 20 Titles - 1st and 2nd bullet points revised
- Revised section 22 SDH Guidelines - renamed and expanded for clarity
- Revised section 23 Reference - source and link updated
- Revised section 18 Songs - 5th bullet point revised
- Revised section 19 Titles - 1st bullet point revised, 2nd bullet point added
- Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 5th bullet point removed