Best Practices and Guidelines for Subtitles | myTranscriptionplace Blog

Best Practices and Guidelines for Subtitles

Apr 27, 2023, NS

Subtitles are an essential component of any audiovisual content that we consume. They enable us to clearly understand the dialogue and provide access to content for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, subtitles enhance the viewing experience by ensuring viewers never miss an important moment or dialogue.

If you're a content creator, whether for films or video content, following these best practices and guidelines for subtitles will ensure that your content is accessible to the broadest audience possible.

  1. Formatting

The first thing to consider while working with subtitles is formatting. Ensure your subtitles are easy to read and follow using a clear and legible font. Arial, Calibri, and Verdana are popular font choices for subtitles.

Subtitles should also be timed correctly, appearing on screen for sufficient time so viewers can read them comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to keep the subtitle on screen for two to six seconds, depending on the dialogue length.

In addition, subtitles should have enough contrast with the background to make them easy to read. Usually, white text with a black or dark background works well, but be mindful of genre, tone, and subject matter when selecting colors.


Subtitles are vital when it comes to conveying accurate dialogue. The key is to transcribe the dialogue as accurately as possible while keeping the conversation's flow and pace in mind. In addition, subtitles should be a true reflection of what is being said and convey the tone and meaning of the dialogue.

Always include a translation or explanation if your content has specialist terms, slang or cultural references. Subtitles are not just for providing accessibility but also for maintaining clarity and accuracy.

3. Consistency

Consistency is crucial when it comes to subtitles. The font, the text size, and the position of the subtitles should be consistent throughout the content. This makes it easier for viewers to follow along and ensures a polished and professional look.

4. Placement

The placement of subtitles on the screen can significantly impact the viewing experience. Subtitles should not cover essential information, such as on-screen text, text overlays or character expressions. Instead, they should be placed in the black space at the bottom of the screen.

5. Grammar and Punctuation

Subtitles are not designed to be a direct transcription of dialogue. However, punctuation, grammar and syntax are crucial elements of language and should be accurately represented in subtitles. This can impact the delivery or tone of an exchange in a scene. Therefore, ensure that complete sentences are used wherever possible and punctuation is included.

6. Proofreading

Proofreading is a crucial step in the subtitle creation process. Always have someone else, preferably a proofreading professional, review the subtitles to ensure they are free of typographical errors, confusion and inaccuracies.

7. Audience Targeting

When creating subtitles, knowing your target audience can significantly impact the rendering of the subtitles. For example, use more straightforward language and shorter sentences if your audience is primarily children or younger viewers. On the other hand, technical or academic content may require longer, complex sentences with more jargon and specialist terms.

8. Localization

Finally, localization should always be considered, particularly if the content will be viewed by an audience in a different region or country. For example, culture-specific content, language nuances or references may need to be clarified for viewers not part of that culture. Hence it is essential to work with translation professionals who can make those adaptations and retain the meaning.

In conclusion, by following these best practices and guidelines for subtitles in audiovisual content, you can ensure your content is accessible, accurate, and clear to your intended audiences. Shoddy subtitles can severely impact the viewing experience, and therefore it is essential to pay attention to the details while creating subtitles.

Subtitles have immense potential to provide access to your content to a broader audience, and achieving this requires the right strategy and technique. Whether you're working on a movie, a TV show or video content, following these guidelines can help you create excellent-quality, accurate, and appealing subtitles.