Netflix has a comprehensive and well-written style guide for timed text/subtitles, which goes into great detail about handling the many situations in subtitles. As well as the English guide, there are also several other guides written in English that explain how to style timed text in 37 different languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese.
- When creating subtitles, Netflix describes the following best practices:
- Try to stick to the dialogue in the video you are subtitling as closely as possible. Only shorten the dialogue if reading speed and synchronization to the audio are an issue.
- Avoid paraphrasing the text when creating subtitles (shortening to improve reading speed and following along with the video). Opt for reducing, deleting, or condensing the test instead.
- Always use the word choice of the video. This includes slang, dialect features (that differ between languages), and swear words.
- Always write dates the way they are stated in the audio, but don’t include stop words (of, the, etc.).
- Use white Ariel font (sans serif is a must) in a size that matches 42 characters across the screen.
- The use of punctuation
- Avoid using complex punctuation, including too many commas in a sentence.
- Do not use ellipses. Use the smart character code (U+2026) instead of three dots. Use ellipses for pauses between audio.
- Use two hyphens to indicate an interruption from another character.
- Use one hyphen when two characters are talking within one subtitle or indicate an action.
- Use square brackets to indicate action, character names, and description that is not part of the audio.
Netflix (2015-2021). English Timed Text Style Guide. Retrieved from: https://partnerhelp.netflixstudios.com/hc/en-us/articles/217350977-English-Timed-Text-Style-Guide