Subtitling Guidelines and Policies

The Code of Good Subtitling was written in 1998 by Jan Ivarsson and Mary Carroll, two leading figures in the field. Jan Ivarsson was head of development of Swedish Television, and Mary Carroll was Managing Director of TitelBild Subtitling and Translation GmbH, Berlin. 

The Code provided a set of instructions aimed at ensuring the production of high-quality subtitles for the hearing. As such, it was endorsed by the European Association for Studies in Screen Translation in the same year it was published.

Subtitling practice has changed significantly after the Code was published. The possibilities offered by DVDs, digital television, social networks and other ways of watching video have considerably modified and expanded the idea of good subtitling.

Different markets and different countries follow their own, specific set of rules. While some aspects might be intrinsic to the idea of good subtitling, there cannot be a one-fits-all answer in defining specific guidelines or instructions. Different audiovisual genres, formats, channels, media, purposes, and of course different languages and cultures will affect how professionals, associations, organisations or institutions define good subtitling. In some countries, a long history and experience in and with subtitling of both the professional communities and the audiences form the basis for some of the fundamental parameters of good subtitling. In commercial contexts, the priorities of companies or organisations might inform how they decide to subtitle their content. In new markets, users and producers might have more possibilities for experimentation.

Considering this variation, the list below offers a collection of updated subtitling guidelines and policies created by different stakeholders, as well as a list of research resources that have tested subtitle rules. The guidelines and references listed here refer to all types of subtitling: subtitling for the hearing, subtitling for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, interlingual and intralingual subtitling, etc.

If you know of other resources that might be added, please email us or complete this form!

Guidelines, policies and whitepapers

Journal article, book chapters and monographs

  • Casas-Tost, H. & Rovira-Esteva, S. (2018). A quest for effective and inclusive design of Chinese characters in subtitling. International Journal of Asian Language Processing 28 (1), 31-47. http://www.colips.org/journals/volume28/V28_N1_P3.pdf
  • Díaz Cintas, J. & Remael, A. (2014). Audiovisual translation, subtitling. Routledge.
  • d’Ydewalle, G., Rensbergen, J. v., & Pollet, J. (1987). Reading a message when the same message is available auditorily in another language: the case of subtitling. In J. K. O’Regan & A. Levy-Schoen (Eds.), Eye movements: from physiology to cognition (pp. 313-321). Amsterdam/New York: Elsevier.
  • d’Ydewalle, G., & De Bruycker, W. (2007). Eye movements of children and adults while reading television subtitles. European Psychologist, 12(3), 196-205. doi:10.1027/1016-9040.12.3.196 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-13862-004
  • Gerber-Morón, O., Szarkowska, A., & Woll, B. (2018). The impact of text segmentation on subtitle reading. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 11(4), 1-18. doi:10.16910/jemr.11.4.2 https://bop.unibe.ch/JEMR/article/view/4267
  • Gerber-Morón, O., & Szarkowska, A. (2018). Line breaks in subtitling: an eye-tracking study on viewer preferences. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 11(3), 1-22. https://bop.unibe.ch/JEMR/article/view/4214
  • Karamitroglou, F. (1998). A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe. Translation Journal, 2(2). Retrieved from http://translationjournal.net/journal/04stndrd.htm
  • Koolstra, C. M., Van Der Voort, T. H. A., & d’Ydewalle, G. (1999). Lengthening the presentation time of subtitles on television: effects on children’s reading time and recognition. Communications, 24(4), 407-422. doi:10.1515/comm.1999.24.4.407 https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/comm/24/4/article-p407.xml
  • Künzli, A. (2017). Die Untertitelung–von der Produktion zur Rezeption (TransÜD Vol. 90). Berlin: Frank & Timme GmbH.
  • Künzli, A. (2020). From inconspicuousness to flow – The CIA model of subtitle quality. Perspectives. Studies in translation theory and practice. https://doi.org/10.1080/0907676X.2020.1733628
  • Kuo, A. S.-Y. )2017). Subtitling quality beyond the linguistic dimension.” in C. Shei and Z-M Gao (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of Chinese translation (pp. 415–437). Oxon and New York: Routledge.
  • Ma, Z., & Xie, Z. (2019). Dubbing and Subtitling. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang US. https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/65958
  • Perego, E. (2008a). Subtitles and line-breaks: Towards improved readability. In D. Chiaro, C. Heiss, & C. Bucaria (Eds.), Between Text and Image: Updating research in screen translation (pp. 211–223). John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.78.21per
  • Perego, E. (2008b). What would we read best? Hypotheses and suggestions for the location of line breaks in film subtitles. The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter, 2(1), 35–63.
  • Rajendran, D. J., Duchowski, A. T., Orero, P., Martínez, J., & Romero-Fresco, P. (2013). Effects of text chunking on subtitling: A quantitative and qualitative examination. Perspectives, Studies in Translation Theory and Practice 21(1), 5–21. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0907676X.2012.722651
  • Szarkowska, A., & Gerber-Morón, O. (2018). Viewers can keep up with fast subtitles: Evidence from eye movements. Plos One, 13(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0199331
  • Weiss, D. S. (1983). The effects of text segmentation on children’s reading comprehension. Discourse Processes, 6(1), 77–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/01638538309544555

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