Seeking opinions on subtitle formats

  • 3 replies

I'm on the fence about a few things concerning subtitles. Oh, for our non-English speaking friends, "on the fence" means I can't decide :-). I usually set up subtitles so that the name of the speaker is initial caps followed by a colon (e.g., Mary: Dialog text). Do you think it should be initial caps or all caps? (e.g., MARY: Dialog text).

I also enclose sounds in parentheses. Do you also think these should be initial caps or all caps? For example: (Sound effect) or (SOUND EFFECT).

Also, I usually italicize dialog that is coming over a PA system, a phone, a radio, etc. Do you think that the dialog for people who are present but just offscreen should also be italicized? I forgot to mention in my original post that I also italicize narrators/voiceovers.

I'm interested in all opinions and would like as many replies as possible so I can get a good idea of what the majority of people would prefer.


It mostly depends on the standards defined by the company/vendor you work for.
However, the guideline provided by Netflix for its subtitles offers a neat and comprehensive format.
This is the format in which they write the speaker name and sound effects:
-[Joe laughing hysterically]
-[Maria] I can't believe you did that!

read more:

Good luck :)


Thanks for your reply. Actually, I don't work for any company for subtitles, I just do it as a hobby. I am a technical writer, though, so that's why I get picky about subtitles looking proper or reflecting the dialog accurately. So many subtitles are paraphrased, and it kind of drives me nuts, but that's just me. I'm sure many are happy with a general idea of the dialog and that's fine, too. Thanks again!


I don't do subs with HI but my personal preferences:
- Always a space after the dash in a dialogue
- No double dash for replacement of 3 dots (...)
- No kinds of brackets whatsoever, I replaced them with italics (some Korean dramas & movies subbers tend to use them as a replacement for italics)
- Italics for invisible speakers (radio, other end of phone call, TV, narrator, conscience lol)
- Sometimes i capitalize all letters for movie titles, producers, directors (cos some Korean movies do this so I just follow)
- Musical symbols for song lyrics
- Musical symbols + italics for song in the background. No italics if it's sung by main speaker.
- If a sentence in a quote continues for several next lines, I do not close the quote in the first line. Only put it in the last line.

That's all I can think of at the moment 😁 and again, this is just my personal preferences for the sub I release.