German Timed Text Style Guide
This document covers the language specific requirements for German. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements section and related guidelines for comprehensive instructions surrounding timed text deliveries to Netflix.
- Herr: Hr.
- Frau: Fr.
- Fräulein: Frl.
- Professor: Prof.
- Doktor: Dr.
- Nummer: Nr.
- Only abbreviate titles when used in combination with a name, e.g.:
- Dr. Schmidt.
- Der Doktor möchte Sie sprechen.
- Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, DVD
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).
- Transliterate uncommon or unfamiliar letters/characters which appear in names or proper nouns when working from a Roman alphabet language into German if they may cause confusion or be hard to understand or pronounce. Note that diacritics should be kept in proper nouns and names. For example: If the Icelandic name Þór appears, please transliterate as Thór (following relevant KNP and guidance about handling character names).
- 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 Ich sage dir Bescheid,
Subtitle 2 sobald er da ist.
- 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, use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.
Subtitle 1 Ich habe mich gefragt…
Subtitle 2 …ob du mit mir kommen möchtest.
Subtitle 1 -Ich wollte dir gerade sagen…
Subtitle 2 -Ich will es nicht wissen!
- Use an ellipsis without a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence.
…haben einen Vertrag unterschrieben.
- 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 Ich arbeitete an dem Film…
Subtitle 2 (FN) REGISSEUR
Subtitle 3 …sechs Monate lang.
- 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.
7. Dual Speakers
- Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.
-Tut mir leid, dass ich zu spät bin.
- 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.
-Hat jemand irgendein Kunstwerk geliefert?
-Nicht dass ich wüsste,
aber lass mich mal Irene fragen.
Should be reformatted as:
Hat jemand irgendein Kunstwerk geliefert?
Nicht dass ich wüsste,
aber lass mich mal Irene fragen.
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 the 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 Ich glaube, wir sollten nicht…
Subtitle 2 (FN) BETRETEN VERBOTEN
Subtitle 3 …weitergehen.
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).
- Italicize the following:
- Album, book, film and program titles (use quotes for song titles)
- Names of publications, legal case names
- Foreign words (unless they are part of regular usage)
- 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
- Song lyrics (if rights have been granted)
- Do not use italics to indicate emphasis on specific words.
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.
- From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: eins, zwei, drei, 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.
- Measurements should be converted to the metric system, unless the original unit of measurement is plot relevant.
- Always use a space between a number and an abbreviation or symbol (6 km, 5 ºC, 14 %)
- There should be no spaces before punctuation marks.
- There should be a comma before sub clauses that start with und and are a complete sentence (i.e. consisting of at least a noun and a verb).
- Quoted words, phrases and sentences should be enclosed in quotation marks.
- 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), e.g.
- Subtitle 1: “Is this a dagger I see before me?
- Subtitle 2: The handle towards my hand.
- Subtitle 3: Come, let me clutch thee.”
Use double quotation marks (" ") without spaces for regular quotations.
Er sagte: "Komm morgen wieder."
- Use single quotation marks (' ') for quotes within quotes, but the closing single quote should be before the period.
Er sagte: " Mein Lieblingslied ist 'Singing in the Rain'."
- 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 if 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
- Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
- 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).
- Follow new German spelling rules.
- The letter “ß”, when in caps, should be spelled “SS”. Do not use the uppercase ẞ (unicode 0x1E9E) as it’s currently unsupported by many devices.
- Do not split words with a hyphen over two lines due to line breaks, unless the word is hyphenated. Always split titles instead.
- Avoid simply following the line breaks from the English template, as they may not always be appropriate for German.
- Dir and Du should not be capitalized in subtitling.
- Avoid using the abbreviated version of verbs, unless they are specifically appropriate to the context and/or the subtitle needs to be condensed to improve the reading speed.
- When the adjective “schwarz” (EN “Black”) appears in reference to someone’s ethnicity or origin, capitalize it as “Schwarz”. Use this form when referring to individual people, to collective groups and to institutions, e.g. “eine Schwarze Person”, “als Schwarze Deutsche”, “das Schwarze Kino”.
- 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.
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 German, 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: [Musik: "Forever Your Girl" von Paula Abdul]
- 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 a speaker ID is required for a character who has yet to be identified by name, use [Mann] or [Frau] or [Arzt], [Ärztin], [Pfarrer] so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative. Use [Mann 2] and [Frau 2] and so on when additional unidentified speakers appear.
- Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music, e.g. [Rockmusik], [sanfte Jazz-Musik im Radio], [Musik über Kopfhörer]
- 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. For example, [lacht schallend] instead of [lacht], [schreit schmerzerfüllt] instead of [schreit], [stöhnt lustvoll] instead of [stöhnt]
- Describe the sounds and audio as opposed to visual elements or actions.
- Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:
Subtitle 1: In letzter Zeit habe ich…
Subtitle 2: …das häufiger gesehen.
- 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.
[Erzähler] Es war einmal…
- In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
- If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [Spanisch] or [auf Spanisch]
- If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [spricht Spanisch]
- Always research the language being spoken – [spricht fremde Sprache] should never be used
For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to:
- Revised section 4 Character names - 4th bullet point added regarding transliteration of unfamiliar characters in proper nouns/names
- Revised section 15 Quotation marks - 2nd bullet point rephrased for clarity
- Revised section 12 Line Treatment - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 15 Quotes - 8th bullet point added
- Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 11th bullet point added
- Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - 10th and 11th bullet points added
- Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - localized examples added
- Revised section 7 Dual Speakers - 2nd bullet and examples added
- Revised section 11 Italics - 7th bullet added regarding poetry
- Revised section 12 Line Treatment - 2nd bullet added
- Revised section 15 Quotation marks - 1st and 7th bullet points added
- Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 10th bullet point added
- Revised section 5 Continuity - 1st bullet point clarifying which type of ellipsis is permitted
- Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - 3rd bullet point reworded
- Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - 3rd bullet point added
- Revised section 9 On-screen Text - section header revised for clarity
- Revised section 1 Abbreviations - 7th bullet point revised
- 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, 6th bullet point added
- Added section 15 Quotes - rewritten for clarity
- 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 20 Special Instructions - 4th bullet point added
- Revised section 21 SDH Guidelines - renamed and expanded for clarity
- 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 - 3rd bullet point removed, 6th bullet point revised