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Tamil Timed Text Style Guide

This document covers the language specific requirements for Tamil. 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 Special Characters

  • Mr. - மிஸ்டர்./ திரு./ ஸ்ரீ./ஸ்ரீமான்
  • Mrs. - மிஸஸ்./ திருமதி/ ஸ்ரீமதி
  • Miss - மிஸ் / செல்வி 
  • Ms. - செல்வி
  • Dr. - டாக்டர்/மருத்துவர் 
  • Prof. - ப்ரொஃப்./பேராசிரியர்
  • OK - சரி
  • etc. - முதலியன/முதலியவை/இன்னும் பல/வகையறா 
  • i.e. - அதாவது
  • e.g. - எ.கா./ எடுத்துக்காட்டு
  • a.m. - காலை
  • p.m. - மாலை
  • BC - கி.மு / பி.சி
  • AD - கி.பி/ ஏ.டி

The period is optional in abbreviations based on the reading speed and timing needs, but do not use it in unabbreviated terms, e.g. Dr. Dolittle - டாக்டர் டூலிட்டில்

  • Special characters should be spelled out:
    • # - எண்/ நம்பர்/ஹாஷ் டாக்
    • % - சதவீதம்/சதவிகிதம்
    • + - கூட்டல்
    • x - பெருக்கல்
    • - - கழித்தல்/குறைத்தல் 
    • = - சமன் , சமம் , நிகரான
  • Acronyms should be written as per the audio
    • NASA - நாசா
    • UNICEF - யூநிசெஃப் / யூனிசெஃப்
    • POTUS - போடஸ்

Abbreviations/acronyms are to be retained in English where letters like "W" could be equivalent to five Tamil characters, in order to avoid reading speed errors.

Acronym like WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) to be retained in English with three characters for quick readability, rather than transliterating to a long sequence of Tamil characters (டபள்யு டபள்யு ஈ).

2. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

3. Character Names

  • Do not translate proper names (e.g. Peter, Suzanne), unless Netflix provides approved translations.
  • If no approved translations are provided, please transliterate character names.
  • Nicknames should only be translated if they convey a specific meaning.

4. 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 when a sentence is split between two continuous subtitles:

Subtitle 1 நம்பறியோ இல்லையோ, பட்டதாரி ஆக

Subtitle 2 இன்னும் இரண்டே பரிட்சைல தேர்ந்தா போதும்.

  • 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, use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.

Subtitle 1 யோசிச்சு பார்க்கிறேன்…

Subtitle 2 …ஏதாவது வழி இருக்கும்.

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

...ஒரு உடன்படிக்கை கையெழுத்திடப்பட்டது.

5. 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 an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence that follows it.
  • 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.

6. Dual Speakers

  • Use a hyphen without 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.

-இப்பவே வாயேன்.

-இல்லை, முடியாது.

7. Font Information

  • Font Style: Meera Inimai as a generic placeholder for proportional SansSerif
  • Font size: Relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across screen
  • Font color: White

8. 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 on-screen text or covered in the dialogue) must be deleted.
  • 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 இதுக்கும் மேல…

Subtitle 2 (FN) அத்துமீறிய நுழைவு கூடாது

Subtitle 3 …நாம போறது நல்லதா தோணலை.

  • Do not end an FN for on-screen text with a period/full stop unless the FN represents long passages of on-screen text which need to be punctuated.
  • Do not use italics in an FN representing on-screen text, even if a title or foreign word is present.

9. 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.

10. Italics

  • Italicize text only in the following cases:
    • Narration
    • The voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts or inner monologue
    • Song lyrics when sung, not quoted (if rights have been granted)
    • Proper names, such as locations, vessels names or company names, should not be italicized
    • Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television (especially if we see the television and hear the audio), computer, loudspeaker, non-sentient robots, robotic voices or AI, etc.
    • In sections such as a phone conversation where the shot changes regularly between speakers, always ensure that segmentation and timing rules are correctly applied so as to ensure italics are used consistently and correctly
    • Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s), not merely off screen, behind a door or out of shot
    • Titles of books, periodicals, works of art, albums, movies, TV shows, radio shows, video games, etc. (for an episode title in a series or song titles use quotation marks)
    • Only italicize titles, not names (e.g. the title of a book but not the name of a ship)
  • In trailers, where dialogue rapidly switches between off-screen characters, on-screen characters and narrators, do not italicize any dialogue from the characters and speakers and only italicize narration.
  • This is the only set of rules to be followed for application of italics and trumps any additional advice found in associated references.

11. 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.

12. Numbers

  • From 1 to 9, numbers should be written out: ஒன்று, இரண்டு, மூன்று, etc.
  • From 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. - காலை 9:30
    • 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 - காலை பதினோரு மணி.
  • 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.
  • Use decimals with periods: 16.8
  • Use commas for large numbers: 50,000
  • Decades should be written using numerals in the following format: nineteen fifties should be 1950களில், fifties should be ‘50களில்.
  • Centuries should be written in the following format: twentieth century should be 20 ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு.
  • Leave all measurements, currencies, dates and times as per the source audio, do not convert.

13. Punctuation

  • There should be no spaces after text and before punctuation marks.
  • Double spaces are not permitted.


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

“நாளைக்கு வாங்க,” என்றார். 

“‘அத்தை மடி, மெத்தையடி’ தான் எனக்கு பிடிச்ச பாடல்."

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

Subtitle 1 "பார்க்கலாம், நல்லிரவு!"

Subtitle 2 "பிரிவது ஒரு இனிமையமான வருத்தம்

Subtitle 3 காலை வரை."

  • Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
  • Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks.
  • Question marks and exclamation points following quotation marks will be followed as per the source file in translation.
  • Song titles should be enclosed 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.

16. Reading Speed Limits

  • Adult programs: Up to 22 characters per second
  • Children’s programs: Up to 18 characters per second

17. 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.

18. Songs

  • Only subtitle plot-pertinent songs if the rights have been granted.
  • Opening and ending theme songs should only be included in the template if plot-pertinent (e.g. for children’s content when the lyrics tell a story), if rights have been granted or if instructed by Netflix. Normally, adult programs should not have the opening songs subtitled, except for SDH
  • Italicize 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 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.

19. 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, transliterate the original title.

20. Special Instructions

  • Modern Standard Tamil should be used for translation. Please refrain from using dialectal words. When there is no alternative to the word in Modern Tamil, use the word closest in meaning.
  • Always use plot/genre pertinent language.
  • 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).
  • The use of transliterations should reflect the formality of the dialogue. For example, formal dialogue should not include colloquial transliterations.
  • Dialogue (including expletives) should be rendered as faithfully as possible, without using dialect or words that would otherwise introduce a level of obscenity not implied in the content.
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
  • 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. Consistency

  • KNPs must be followed in the translation to ensure consistency across episodes and seasons.
  • Names and places that are not included in KNP are also to be consistent in, and across the episodes.
  • Appropriate formality should be applied between characters and consistently followed.
  • Clarity of pronouns to be applied. For instance, நாங்க should not be confused with நாம, or எங்களுக்கு with நமக்கு.

22. 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 Tamil, 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:
    • Adult programs: Up to 22 characters per second.
    • Children’s programs: Up to 18 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: ["அத்தை மடி மெத்தையடி” ஒலிக்கிறது]
  • 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. 

நிலாவே வா

  • Use brackets [ ] to enclose speaker IDs or sound effects.
  • 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 [நபர்] or [பெண்], or [ஆண் பேசுகிறார்] or [பெண் பேசுகிறார்], 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. [ஸ்டீரியோவில் ராக் இசை ஒலிக்கிறது] 
  • Use objective descriptions that describe genre or mood identifiers for atmospheric non-lyrical music, for example [அச்சுறுத்தும் இசை ஒலிக்கின்றது].
  • Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
  • Subtitle silence if plot-pertinent. For example, if plot-pertinent music ends abruptly [நிசப்தம்]
  • Be detailed and descriptive, use adverbs where appropriate when describing sounds and music, describe voices, speed of speech, volume of sounds.
  • 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. [விவரிப்பாளர்] ஒரு காலத்தில், இருந்தது...
  • Describe the sounds and audio as opposed to visual elements or actions.
  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

Subtitle 1:       இப்போ எல்லாம் எனக்கு…

                        [இருமுகிறான், மூக்கு உறிஞ்சுகிறான்]

Subtitle 2:       …இந்த மாதிரி அடிக்கடி ஆகுது.

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [ஸ்பானிஷில்]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [ஸ்பானிஷில் பேசுகிறார்]
    • Always research the language being spoken – [அந்நிய பாஷையில் பேசுகிறார்] should never be used.

23. Reference

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

Change Log:


  • Revised sections 16 Reading Speed and 22 SDH - sections edited to mention "reading speed limits" and "up to"


  • Revised section 19 Titles - "do not subtitle the main title" added, section edited


  • Revised section 19 Titles - rules added/edited to include main title translations


  • First edition of article published



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