+91-8860-543-469 (Gurugram)
+91-8897-630-317 (Hyderabad)

Best Practices to be Followed in Subtitling Industry for Error-Free Subtitles


Have you ever got frustrated while watching a foreign movie because of its bad subtitles? We are in love with subtitles nowadays, aren’t we? But, a lot of effort goes into the making of complete error-free subtitles. Subtitlers need to keep in mind a lot of things such as timing, punctuations, meaning, sound, capitalization, numbers, line breaks, etc. Subtitling should not cause any distraction; it should blend well with the movie.

Now, let’s discuss all these aspects of error-free subtitling.

Meaning Matters in Subtitling

Have you watched a crime thriller and laughed hard because of its bad subtitles? Accuracy of the meaning of a subtitle is perhaps a very important thing. Things that need to be kept under consideration are as follows:
✔ A translated subtitle must not lose its essence in the target language. While processing the translation, the translator must practice accurate translation which is appealing to the audience and loved by them.
✔ Verbatim captioning (word to word) should be followed for quotes by public figures.
✔ Don’t forget to use words such as “so”, “but”, “too” because they give expression to the meanings.
✔ Each and every word must be captioned regardless of slang, idiom, language.

Each Second Counts in Subtitling

Subtitles are created for a better understanding of a film. So, it should not cause any frustration to the audience. In this case, timing is truly a big factor. The timing of a subtitle can make or break a movie completely.
✔ Subtitles should show up and vanish when the speaker utters the words. Subtitles and the speaker should have coordination. A subtitler must ensure to frame readable subtitles.
✔ A lyric that has been repeated should be framed with a gap in between. This makes easier for the audience to understand the lyric has been repeated.
✔ The minimum display time should be 1.5 seconds for each dialogue.
✔ Subtitles must not cover the most part of the screen. Two lines of the text at once will do the job.
✔ Ending a sentence and beginning a new one should be avoided on the same line. Separate subtitles should be framed for each sentence of dialogue.

Sound Should Have Clarity

Sound effects play a pivotal role in any audio-visual content. Somethings need to be kept in mind while dealing with sound effects are given below:
✔ A label should be used while explaining the cause of an inaudible speech.
✔ Sound effect captions can be used in Italics with closed brackets. [(screams), (dog barking), (raining heavily)] ✔ In the case of multiple speakers, use each speaker’s name in the subtitles before their dialogue. Example:
Lisa: When will she come?
John: I don’t know.
✔ Nowadays, subtitlers are using music icon (♪) to denote singing in the video. Example: ♪ Country roads take me home ♪
✔ Another method for indicating music is the usage of hashtags (#). Example: # Country roads take me home #

Clean Capitalization

There are few rules that need to be followed regarding capitalization while framing subtitles.
✔ Each sentence should start with capital letters.
✔ Emphasizing a word using capital letters is not required unless it is being used to indicate screaming.

Add More Expression Using Punctuations

Punctuations might seem not an important thing. But, punctuation can add more emotion to each dialogue.
✔ Many translators believe that adding punctuations at the end of sentences signals the eye which adds more value to the subtitling work.
✔ Question marks (?) and exclamation marks (!) should be used to denote a question or emphasis respectively and it should be positioned right after the last word of a subtitle.
✔ A single space should be used after commas, colons, semi-colons and mid-subtitle full-stops, on both sides of dashes (but not mid-word hyphens), before opening brackets and after closing brackets.
✔ Double hyphens or single long dash should be used to indicate interruption among speakers.
✔ An ellipsis can be used to indicate pause within a caption.
✔ Quotation marks can be used for on-screen readings from a poem, book, play, journal, etc.

Using Numbers Accurately

✔ Subtitling long numbers should be done as per the relevant conventions. Example: Phone Numbers (xxx-xxxx; xxx-xxx-xxxx), other long numbers should be used in groups of three.
✔ Numerals should be used for all numbers over ten. Spell out numbers till 10. Example: John has three pairs of jeans. John has twenty pairs of jeans.
✔ Time indication should be done in numerals only. For example; Tom woke up at 5:50 AM.
✔ Captioning a decade should look like this, “the 1980s” (not “the 1980’s”) and “the ’50s” (not “the 50’s”).

Line Breaks Should be Natural

Line breaks should be done naturally so that it does not look unnatural and should be easy to understand.
✔ Subtitles should ideally end at clause or phrase boundaries.
Wrong – Lisa said it would decrease the/number of shareholders
Right – Lisa said it would decrease/ The number of shareholders.
✔ A person’s name should be intact. No line breaks can be present in it.

Line Management

✔ Bold lines or underlines are not allowed in subtitling.

It is very important to choose a genuine and accurate subtitler so that your audio-visual content has error-free subtitles. A professional translation agency can enter the scenario to solve all of your language problems.

Why should you choose the best translation agency for Subtitling?

● Experienced and professional translation agencies ensure to provide genuine and 100% accurate language services as they are generally ISO 9001-2015 certified.
● Experience does matter. To have years of experience and thousands of certified native linguists does matter. So, the chance of receiving a bad language service is quite unlikely.
● All audios and videos provided to us are only accessible by team leaders and assigned linguists.