French Timed Text Style Guide

1. Abbreviations

  • Monsieur: M. (with period) or Mr. (with period)
  • Madame: Mme (no period)
  • Mademoiselle: Mlle (no period)
  • Maître: Me (no period)
  • Professeur: Pr (no period)
  • Docteur: Dr (no period)

2. Acronyms

  • Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, USA

3. Brand Names [This does not apply to French Canadian]

  • 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).

4. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line

5. 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).

6. Continuity

  • Do not use ellipses (3 dots) 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.

7. Documentary

  • 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.

8. Dual Speakers

  • 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.

9. Font Information

  • 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

10. Forced Narratives

  • Forced narrative titles should only be included if plot pertinent.
  • 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 written passages (g., excerpts from books, magazines or newspapers, handwritten notes, social media messages and text messages), which must match the use of uppercase/lowercase as it appears on screen. In order to improve readability, mixed case can also be used for long passages of on screen text (e.g., long written passages used as prologue or epilogue).
  • 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.

11. 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 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).

12. Italics

  • 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)
    • Voice-overs
  • Do not use italics to indicate emphasis on specific words.

13. Numbers

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Convert to the metric system: kilometers (km), centimeters (cm), meters (m), kilograms (kg).

14. Punctuation

  • There should be a space before interrogation and exclamation marks. [This does not apply to French Canadian]
  • For semicolons and colons, there should be a space before and after the punctuation mark. [This does not apply to French Canadian]
  • Use a space before % and currency signs: 2 % and 5 $

15. Quotes

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

Il m’a dit : "Reviens demain." 

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

"Il a dit : 'Tout va bien.'" 

  • Quotes should be used only at the start and at the end of a quote, not at the start of every subtitle.
  • Song titles should be in quotes.
  • See the following examples for the use of punctuation with quotes: 

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."

16. Reading Speed

  • Adult programs: 200 words per minute / 17 characters per second
  • Children’s programs: 160 words per minute / 13 characters per second

17. Repetitions

  • Do not translate words or phrases repeated more than once.
  • 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.
  • 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.

19. Titles

  • Main titles: do not subtitle the main title unless an approved translation is provided by Netflix.
  • Episode titles: do not subtitle episode titles if they do not appear on screen. If on-screen, either as part of the principal photography or burned into video, please obtain approved translations from Netflix.
  • 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.

20. Special Instructions

  • 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.

21. Speaker ID / Sound Effects for SDH versions

  • Use brackets [ ] to enclose speaker IDs or sound effects.
  • Use all lowercase, except for proper nouns.
  • Only use speaker IDs or sound effects when they cannot be visually identified.
  • Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music (e.g., rock music playing over a stereo).
  • Sound effects should be plot pertinent.
  • Never italicize speaker IDs or sound effects, even when the spoken information is italicized, such as in a voice-over.

22. Reference

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

  • L’Académie française : http://www.academie-francaise.fr/la-langue-francaise/questions-de-langue
  • Le dictionnaire de l’Académie française: http://atilf.atilf.fr/academie9.htm

 



Change Log:

2016-05-15
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

 

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