German Timed Text Style Guide

1. Abbreviations

  • Herr: Hr.
  • Frau: Fr.
  • Fräulein: Frl.
  • Professor: Prof.
  • Doktor: Dr.
  • Number: Nr.
  • Always use a space between a number and an abbreviation or symbol (6 km, 5 ºC, 14 %)

2. Acronyms

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

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., Santa Claus).

5. Continuity

  • Do not use ellipses (3 dots) or dashes when an ongoing sentence is split between two or more continuous subtitles.

Subtitle 1   Ich sage dir Bescheid,

Subtitle 2   sobald er da ist. 

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

Subtitle 1   Ich habe mich gefragt…

Subtitle 2   ...ob du mit mir kommen möchtest.

Subtitle 1   -Ich wollte dir gerade sagen...

Subtitle 2   -Ich will es nicht wissen!

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

…haben einen Vertrag unterschrieben.

6. 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   Ich arbeitete an dem Film…

Subtitle 2 (FN)       REGISSEUR

Subtitle 3   …sechs Monate lang.

7. Dual Speakers

  • Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.

-Tut mir leid, dass ich zu spät bin.

-Schon gut.

8. 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

9. 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   Ich glaube, wir sollten nicht…

Subtitle 2 (FN)       BETRETEN VERBOTEN

Subtitle 3   …weitergehen.

10. 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).

11. 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.

12. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: ein, zwei, drei,
  • Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13,
  • 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.
  • Convert to the metric system: kilometers (km), centimeters (cm), meters (m), kilograms (kg).

13. Punctuation

  • There should be no spaces before punctuation marks.
  • There should be a comma before sub clauses that start with und and are a complete sentence (i.e., consisting of at least a noun and a verb).

14. Quotes

  • Double quotation marks (" ") without spaces

Er sagte: "Komm morgen wieder."

  • Single quotation marks (' ') for quotes within quotes, but the closing single quote should be before the period 

Er sagte: " Mein Lieblingslied ist 'Singing in the Rain'."

  • Quotes should be used only at the start and at the end of a quotation, not at the start of every subtitle.
  • Closing quotes should always follow the period/full stop.
  • Song titles should be in quotes.

15. Reading Speed

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

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. Special Instructions

  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
  • Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot pertinent.
  • Follow new German spelling rules.
  • Do not split words with a hyphen over two lines due to line breaks, unless the word is hyphenated. Always split titles instead.
  • Avoid simply following the line breaks from the English template, as they may not always be appropriate for German.
  • Dir and Du should not be capitalized in subtitling.
  • Avoid using the abbreviated version of verbs, unless they are specifically appropriate to the context and/or the subtitle needs to be condensed to improve the reading speed.

20. 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.

21. Reference

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

 



Change Log:

2016-05-15
Revised section 17 Songs – 5th bullet point revised

Revised section 18 Titles – 1st bullet point revised, 2nd bullet point added
Revised section 19 Special Instructions – 3rd bullet point removed, 6th bullet point revised

 

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