We compiled some simple subtitling guidelines to help Amara users create quality subtitles. From practical standards to human-centered focus, we are sharing these few simple steps to help people create subtitles that help audiences enjoy the content that they love.

Our community at Amara spans many different cultures, but we all have a common mission: to make content accessible to greater audiences. By transcribing and translating subtitles, you are connecting people to information they might not have had before.

In honor of our common mission, we put together some community subtitling guidelines we encourage to help us achieve our shared goal of sharing information.

Have an Audience-First Focus

  • Respect the perspective of the video audience. Think about watching the video on mute. Would you be able to follow the plot of the video without the sound?
  • Keep grammatical units together. Read each line to make sure that you do not split up meaningful phrases (for example infinitives, prepositional phrases). Read your subtitles and pause at the line breaks to see if each break is in a natural place.
  • Value meaning over literal transcription or translation. When translating colloquial terms like idioms, metaphors, or slang, try to find a phrase with equivalent meaning in your language.
  • Consider the context of the video and its speakers. Pay attention to the tone to capture the speaker’s emotions, not just their words.
  • Take initiative! Research information about the video to make your subtitles stand out. Whether you are researching technical terms or character names, make sure you are spelling them correctly.

Collaborate to Boost Subtitle Quality

  • Be mindful that we do not all share a native language. Be clear, concise, and kind in all communication.
  • Focus on the goal of collaborative workflows: to help each other improve the audience experience. 
  • Leave time-stamped subtitle notes for specific issues with a set of subtitles. Include a clear and collaborative description.
  • When in doubt, reach out! Go to the Members page on your team and find a manager or coordinator to send a message asking for help.

Make Your Subtitles Readable

  • Maintain reasonable reading rates (characters per second) for your language. 
    • For most languages: up to 25 characters per second
    • For Japanese, Chinese, and Korean: up to 10 characters per second
  • Only 1-3 lines per subtitle: More lines can cover too much of the screen or be difficult to read.
  • Balance the length of your lines. Lines that are similar in length are easier to read.
    • For most languages: maximum 42 characters per line
    • For Japanese, Chinese, and Korean: maximum 16 characters per line

Learn more about the Amara Editor, time-saving subtitling features, and more at our support site.

About the author

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I am a Product Specialist and Recruiter for Amara. I am passionate about making online content accessible to global audiences!

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