French Timed Text Style Guide
*This document covers the language specific requirements for French. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements Section for comprehensive guidelines 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)
- Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, USA
- 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).
- 42 characters per line
- 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).
- 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 or an abrupt interruption. In the case of a pause, 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 without a 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 in the documentary.
- 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 in a documentary. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators.
- Use a hyphen followed by a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.
- Tu viens ?
- J’arrive. Donne-moi une minute.
- 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
- Forced narrative titles 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 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 Je crois qu’on devrait…
Subtitle 2 (FN) ACCÈS INTERDIT
Subtitle 3 …rebrousser chemin.
- 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
- 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.
- Maximum two lines.
- 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 sentence and not at the start of every subtitle.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
- Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
- Include as much of the original content as possible.
- Do not simplify or water down the original dialogue.
- 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:
["Forever Your Girl" playing]
- Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle.
- 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 [man] or [woman], or [male voice] or [female voice], 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., rock music playing over a stereo).
- Sound effects should be plot-pertinent.
- Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:
Subtitle 1: However, lately, I've been...
Subtitle 2: ...seeing a lot more of this.
- Never italicize speaker IDs or sound effects, even when the spoken information is italicized, such as in a voice-over:
Once upon a time, there was…
- In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
- If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [in Spanish]
- If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [speaking Spanish]
- Always research the language being spoken – [speaking foreign language] 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/
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