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Basque Timed Text Style Guide

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

1. Abbreviations and units

2. Acronyms

  • Acronyms (siglak) are written without periods or spaces: NBE, FBI, BEZ.
  • Acronyms that are pronounced the way they are written (i.e. not spelled) should be capitalized (e.g. Renfe, Seat) if they are proper names. If they are common nouns and have become part of the daily lexicon (e.g. hies, modem) use sentence case. 
  • For a more detailed clarification on acronyms, consult Euskaltzaindia’s section for acronyms.

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. Alexandro Handia, Maria Antonieta, Elisabet II.a, Bizarzuri), unless Netflix instructs otherwise.
  • Always use accents and diacritics in names and proper nouns as needed, (e.g. Plácido Domingo) including in fictional character names and those of foreign names (e.g. Antônio when used as a Portuguese name).
  • Add a space in abbreviated proper names (e.g. J. K. Simmons).
  • Transliterate uncommon or unfamiliar letters/characters which appear in names or proper nouns when working from one Roman alphabet language into Basque 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). 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     Gutako batzuek gauza horietan

           Subtitle 2     pentsatu behar dugu. 

  • Use an ellipsis to indicate a pause (2 seconds or more), that is, an intentional or accidental suspension of a part of the sentence, or an abrupt interruption.

           Subtitle 1     Ez dakit… pentsatu behar dut.

  • In the case of a pause (2 seconds or more), if the sentence continues into the next subtitle, do not use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle, unless the pause (2 seconds or more) was caused by an interruption.

           Subtitle 1     Gauza arraro bat gertatzen zait…

           Subtitle 2     baina ezin dizut ezer kontatu.

           Subtitle 1     - Esan behar nizun…

                                - Ez dut jakin nahi!

           Subtitle 2     …dibortzioa jada sinatu dut.

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

           …baina orain etorri behar zara.

  • As an exception, ellipsis may also be used to avoid the grammatically awkward break of a sentence in two subtitle events, even if the pause is under 2 seconds. Example:

           Subtitle 1      Tiro egin…

           Subtitle 2      al dizu?

6. Documentary/Unscripted

  • Speaker’s title in forced narratives (FNs): 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.
  • As indicated in section 5 (Continuity) above, only when ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, or another character's dialogue, 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     Pelikula honetan lanean ibili naiz…

          Subtitle 2     (FN) ZUZENDARIA

          Subtitle 3     …sei bat hilabete.

  • 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.
  • This approach should also be followed for trailers for all content types.

7. Dual Speakers

  • Use a hyphen followed by a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.

           - Ez al zaizu gustatzen?

           - Ez, ez zait gustatzen.

  • Text in each line in a dual speaker subtitle should ideally be a contained sentence and should not carry into the preceding or subsequent subtitle. Creating shorter sentences and timing appropriately helps to accommodate this. For example, try to avoid:

           Subtitle 1     Esan behar nizun,

           Subtitle 2     - baina abokatuak ez zidan utzi.

                                - Ez nau harritzen.


           Subtitle 1     Esan behar nizun,

                                baina abokatuak ez zidan utzi.

           Subtitle 2     Ez nau harritzen.

8. Font Information

  • Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportional sans serif.
  • 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 on-screen text or covered in the dialogue) must be deleted (e.g. Budapest).
  • Forced narratives for on-screen text should be in ALL CAPS and no period at the end of the text, except for:
    • Instant messaging, chats, text messages (e.g. SMS, WhatsApp), which should stay in ALL CAPS but follow Basque punctuation rules.
    • Long passages of on-screen text (e.g. prologue, epilogue, etc.), which should use sentence case to improve readability.
  • Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle. If both appear at the same time and there is not enough room, dialogue takes precedence.
  • 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     Uste dut ez genukeela…

           Subtitle 2     (FN) SARRERA DEBEKATUTA

           Subtitle 3     …aurrera egin behar.

  • When applicable, forced narratives in Basque should follow standard italics practices as described in the italics section.


10. Foreign Dialogue

  • Dialogue in any language should only be translated if it is meant to be understood.
  • In non-Spanish language titles, Spanish dialogue should not be translated. Linguists should use their best judgment to determine if it is necessary to translate plot-relevant expressions.
  • When using foreign words, always verify spelling and punctuation, if applicable.
  • Foreign words should be italicized with some exceptions as defined in the italics section below.
  • In specialized content where frequent foreign terminology is used (e.g. cooking shows or contests) italics are not needed.

11. Italics

  • Italicize the following:
    • Titles of works of art (e.g. sculptures, paintings), albums, books, periodicals, films, TV/radio shows, video games, etc. (use quotation marks for songs titles and episode titles).
    • Foreign words, unless they are proper names (e.g. a company name or a vessel name) or part of regular usage (e.g. sushi, pizza). Linguists should follow their best judgment, taking into account that italics should not interfere with legibility.
    • Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television, computer, loudspeaker, non-sentient robots, robotic voices or AI, etc.
    • Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s), not merely off-screen or off-camera. Additionally, italics are not needed for subtitle events that belong to a single continuous sentence, divided by a shot change, in which the speaker is not in the scene before the shot change, but is visible after the shot change.
    • Song lyrics when sung, not quoted (if rights have been granted).
    • Recited poetry.
    • Voice-over, narration, the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thought or inner monologue.
  • Do not use italics to indicate emphasis on specific words.

12. Line Treatment

  • Keeping text on one line is preferred, unless it exceeds the character limitation, corresponds to dialogue from different characters or there is specific creative intent as in the following FN example:

          FIONA SMITH


  • Maximum two lines.
  • A pyramid is preferred where possible
  • The second line should be longer than the first if the subtitle is bottom-positioned
  • The first line should be longer than the second if the subtitle is top-positioned
  • Lines should be broken by syntactic unit as outlined in the General Requirements guidelines

13. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: bat, bi, hiru… . Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc. However, numbers such as, "ehun" and "mila" should be written out.
  • When a number begins a sentence, it should generally be spelled out.
  • There may be exceptions to these two rules, e.g. numerals can be used if a) it is a date (urtarrilak 2, apirilak 27), b) a sentence begins with a long number (e.g. "937 kasu" so as to avoid "bederatziehun eta hogeita hamazazpi kasu") or, c) there are reading speed considerations.
  • 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.
  • Four digits numbers should not use spaces or separators: 2000 dolar.
  • Five-digit numbers should be written out with a non-breaking space: 50 000.
  • In cases that require a decimal separator, use a comma: 2,50.
  • Measurements should be converted to the International System of Units (SI), unless the original unit of measurement is plot-pertinent.
  • Units and symbols should be separated from the figure with a non-breaking space (2000 kg, % 15).
  • When times need to be represented in numerical format, use a colon to separate the digits, e.g. 18:00
  • Currencies should be spelled out unless there is not enough space, in which case the currency symbol can be used: 3000 euro or 3000 €
  • The $ symbol should only be used for American dollars if needed. Other currencies should be spelled out

14. Punctuation

  • Do not use semicolons/puntu eta koma (;).
  • Do not use exclamation and question marks together (?!), please pick the one that suits the intonation or the meaning best. For example, "Zer diozu?!" should be either "Zer diozu?" or "Zer diozu!"
  • A period should never follow a question/exclamation mark.
  • For vocatives and causal sentences/clauses, please follow Euskaltzaindia’s  punctuation recommendations: 
  • Vocatives:

           Raquel, badakizu noiz etorriko zaren?


           Badakizu noiz etorriko zaren, Raquel?

  • Causal clauses/sentences:

           Ez naiz nekatuko, ondo lo eginda bainago.


           Ondo lo eginda nagoenez, ez naiz nekatuko.

  • For censored words, if it is possible to identify the affected term, include the initial letter of the word followed by an ellipsis. If the affected term is not identifiable, include the ellipsis on its own within rounded brackets. In some cases, it is acceptable to omit the censored reference if doing so helps reading speed. Examples:

           P…kumea da!

           Zure senar (…) nire bila etorri zen.

15. Quotation Marks

  • Use double quotation marks (" ") without spaces for regular quotations: 

           Berak esan zidan: "Bihar bueltatu".

  • Single quotation marks (' ') for quotations within quotations:

           Berak esan zuen: "'Bamba' nire abestirik gogokoena da".

  • In Basque, the period at the end of a sentence always comes after the closing quotation marks: 

           "A zer parea, karakola eta barea".

  • When a sentence includes a quoted sentence that ends with a question or an exclamation mark, a period must be added after the quotation mark: 

           Galdetu zidan: "Maite nauzu?".

  • Song titles and episode titles should be in quotation marks.
  • Use quotation marks when characters are 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.
  • Citations from songs and poems should be in quotation marks. Example:

           Abestu zuen: "Ez zaitut inoiz ahaztuko",

           baina ahaztu ninduen.

  • Quotation marks should be used at the start and end of whole quotations and not in each subtitle that makes up a quotation (this is also the case for direct speech). However, quotation marks should be added at the start and end of subtitles where complete new quotations are included in subsequent subtitle events said by the same speaker.

           Subtitle 1     Olerki hura gogoratzen al duzu?

           Subtitle 2     "Elurra mara-mara.

           Subtitle 3     Goitik behera kaskabarra.

           Subtitle 4     Mendi punta zurituta".

16. Reading Speed Limits

  • Adult programs: Up to 17 characters per second.
  • Children’s programs: Up to 13 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 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.
  • Follow regular Basque punctuation and capitalization rules as follows:

           Subtitle 1     Ez nazazu orain gelditu,

           Subtitle 2     oso gustura gaude eta.


           Subtitle 1     Esaiozu maite dudala,

                                egia beti esan dudala.

  • Use ellipses when a song continues in the background, but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue.
  • Album titles should be in italics.
  • Song titles should be in quotation marks.

19. Titles

  • Main titles: do not subtitle/translate main titles unless otherwise instructed.
  • Do not italicize the main title event.
  • 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, including translations for Netflix shows and films. If none are available, leave titles in the original language.

20. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored. Expletives should be rendered as faithfully as possible.
  • 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. Ensure any intentional errors are within quotation marks.
  • 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 in 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, neutralize or water down the original dialogue.
  • Intralingual subtitles for Basque original content are expected to include regionalisms as needed to faithfully represent the original dialogue.
  • Deliberate or inconsequential misspellings, mispronunciations and grammatical errors found in the audio (e.g. hau “ta” hori, ez “in” hori, zertan “ai zea” , etc.) should not be reproduced in SDH unless plot-pertinent. Ensure any intentional errors are within quotation marks.
  • Where content has been dubbed into Basque , please refer to the dubbing script or dubbed audio as the basis for the SDH file and ensure that both 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. Do not transcribe lyrics for foreign language songs, unless instructed otherwise by Netflix. For example, we may request a bilingual song to be transcribed if considered plot-pertinent.
  • Use song title identifiers when applicable - song titles should be in quotation marks:

           [“Forever Your Girl” entzuten da]

           [Celia Cruzen “La vida es un carnaval” entzuten da]

  • Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle. Punctuation and capitalization should follow current Basque rules. For example:

           ♪ Nire lagunak dira,

           gauak elkarrekin eman ohi genituen.♪

  • 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.
  • Sound effects from characters should be expressed with an adverb (e.g. eztulka, txistuka, negarrez) while sound effects from the scene use a noun (e.g. eztula, txistua, negarra).
  • 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 [gizona] or [emakumea], or [gizon ahotsa] or [emakume ahotsa], so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.
  • Speaker IDs should include a number if there is more than one unidentified character in a scene, e.g. [emakume 1], [emakume 2]. Counting should restart with the scene change.
  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music (e.g. [rock musika entzuten da telebistan])
  • Sound effects should be plot-pertinent.
  • 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.
  • Subtitle silence if plot-pertinent. For example, when plot-pertinent music ends abruptly.
  • Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
  • Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue should ideally be on the same line.
  • Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:

           Subtitle 1     Hala ere, azkenaldian…


           Subtitle 2     …ez dut berari buruz ezer jakin.

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

           [narratzailea] Bazen behin neskatxa bat…

  • In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
    • If foreign dialogue is translated, use [hizkuntza honetan], for example [alemanez ]
    • If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [hizkuntza honetan hitz egiten da ], for example [alemanez hitz egiten da]
    • Always research the language being spoken: [atzerriko hizkuntzan hitz egiten da] should never be used.
    • As an exception, if Spanish is frequently used by a character, it can be subtitled as such, as it is perfectly intelligible for Basque speakers.

22. References

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

Change Log:


  • Revised section 6 Documentary/Unscripted - 7th bullet added stating to follow the same style in trailers
  • Revised section 10 Foreign Dialogue - 2nd bullet point added
  • Revised section 16 Reading Speed and 21 SDH - sections edited to mention "reading speed limits" and "up to"
  • Revised section 20 Special Instructions - 4th bullet point expanded to specify enclosing intentional errors in quotation marks
  • Revised section 21 SDH - 4th bullet point expanded to specify enclosing intentional errors in quotation marks


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


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


  • First version of article published




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