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Icelandic Timed Text Style Guide

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

1. Abbreviations and Titles

  • Herra: hr. 
  • Frú: fr.
  • Fröken: frk.
  • Prófessor: Not abbreviated in Icelandic. Title comes after the name, John Davis prófessor, John Smith majór, David Johnson dómari.
  • Doktor: If it is a medical doctor, place the title (læknir) after the name: John Davis, læknir. If it is a PhD-degree: dr. with a period and in lowercase unless at the start of a sentence: Þetta er dr. Sandra Johnson. 
  • Honorifics (such as Mr, Mrs and Miss) are generally not used in Icelandic. Exceptions are the president and the bishop of Iceland. They should always be addressed as Mr/Mrs: Biskup Íslands, frú Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, flutti ávarp. Herra Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, forseti Íslands, heilsaði viðstöddum með handabandi.

2. Acronyms

  • Acronyms should be written in uppercase, without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, BNA, FBI, BSÍ.

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: jólasveinninn).
  • Foreign names should be declined according to Icelandic grammar where applicable (e.g. Sarah - Söruh, Tomasz - Tomaszi, Elizabeth - Elizabethar. Sarah fór með Tomaszi til Elizabethar).
  • Transliterate uncommon or unfamiliar letters/characters which appear in names or proper nouns when working from a Roman alphabet language into Icelandic 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 a German street name such as Torstraße appears in the source, please transliterate as Torstrasse (following relevant KNP and guidance about handling character names).

5. Continuity

  • 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   Ég læt þig vita

Subtitle 2   þegar hann kemur.

  • Use ellipses followed by a space 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 followed by a space at the beginning of the second subtitle.

Subtitle 1   Ég velti fyrir mér …

Subtitle 2  … hvort þú viljir koma með mér.

Subtitle 1   -Ég ætlaði að segja …

Subtitle 2   -Ég vil ekki heyra það!

  • Use ellipses followed by a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence

… undirritaði samning.

  • When a word is not completed, use the three dots (U+2026) without a space: Andsk… 

6. Documentary/Unscripted

  • 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   Ég vann að myndinni …

Subtitle 2 (FN)  LEIKSTJÓRI

Subtitle 3  … í sex mánuði. 

  • 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 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.



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 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     Við skulum ekki …


Subtitle 3        … halda áfram.

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 Icelandic, the following no longer need to be italicized: sushi, lasagne, chili, cappuccino, pizza, siesta, dejà vu) and unless they are proper names (e.g. a company name). When a word appears in the dictionary Íslensk nútímamálsorðabók (https://islenskordabok.arnastofnun.is/) it is considered regular usage and does not need italics (e.g. bömmer, lekker, geim (partí), djók).
  • When combining a foreign word and an Icelandic word, use a hyphen (e.g. Downs-heilkenni, Boeing-þota, New York-borg).

11. Italics

  • Italicize the following:
    • Album, book, film, program, etc. 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.
    • 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).
    • Voice-overs.
  • 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.

13. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out:  einn, tveir, þrír, 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.


  • 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:

Hann sagði: „Komdu aftur á morgun.“

  • You can place quotation marks within quotation mark:

Hann sagði orðrétt: „Þegar Magga heyrir ömmu sína segja: „Hverjum þykir sinn fugl fagur,“ brosir hún alltaf.“

  • 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.

15. Reading Speed Limits

  • Adult programs: Up to 17 characters per second.
  • Children’s programs: Up to 13 characters per second.

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.

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, when the lyrics are in original language, but only at the start of a sentence when in Icelandic.
  • Use an ellipsis when a song continues in the background but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue.
  • Punctuation: should be used as in normal dialogue for lyrics in Icelandic. For lyrics in the original language 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 line, if necessary. 
  • Album titles should be in italics.
  • Song titles should be in quotes. 

18. Titles

  • Main titles: do not subtitle the main title
  • 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.

19. Poetry

  • Do not use italics.
  • Include quotation marks if someone else's poem is being recited.
  • Do not use quotation marks if a character is reciting their own poem.
  • Follow punctuation and capitalization of original poem, if available.
  • If not available, use uppercase letters at the start of a new sentence only and commas or periods at the end of lines.

20. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored. Expletives should be rendered as faithfully as possible, always keeping in mind the original creative intent.
  • 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).
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
  • In order to better meet the expectations of an Icelandic audience, a condensed translation style is required. Subtitles should be merged as much as possible whenever a character’s dialogue extends over several subtitles. Character names should be left out once they have been clearly established.
  • 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 Icelandic, 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 limits can be increased to:
    • Adult programs: Up to 20 characters per second.
    • Children’s programs: Up to 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:
    [„Forever Your Girl“ heyrist].
  • 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 [karl] or [kona], or [karlrödd] or [kvenrödd], 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. rokktónlist heyrist úr hátalara).
  • Sound effects should be plot-pertinent.
  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

Subtitle 1: Undanfarið hef ég ...                         

                  [hóstar, sýgur upp í nefið].

Subtitle 2:  … varð ekki var við þetta.

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

[þulur] Einu sinni var …

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use the preposition [á <language>], for example [á spænsku].
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [talar <language>], for example [talar spænsku].
    • Always research the language being spoken – [talar erlent mál] should never be used.

22. Reference

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

Change Log:


  • Revised sections 15 Reading Speed and 21 SDH - sections edited to mention "reading speed limits" and "up to"


  • Revised section 18 Titles - "do not subtitle the main title" added, section edited


  • Revised section 18 Titles - rules added/edited to include main title translations


  • Revised section 4 Character names - 5th bullet point added regarding transliteration of unfamiliar characters in proper nouns/names
  • Revised section 14 Quotation marks - 1st bullet point rephrased for clarity



  • Icelandic timed text style guide published




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