This is how punctuation in subtitles work!
Punctuation is used to structure your text in writing. It indicates where to make a break or stress the written words.
By using punctuation you can influence or change the flow and meaning of a sentence. It also reflects the melody and rhythm of the spoken word.
But do you know how to use punctuation in subtitles correctly? Curiously, it is different in some points to the common grammar rules.
- Commas are important if there's a risk to misunderstand the statement of the character on screen. Sometimes a comma can change the meaning of a sentence completely.
- Words used as salutations should be placed in commas
- Commas separate main and sub clauses. In subtitles it is much better to place your main clause at the beginning.
- Commas at the end of a subtitle should always be avoided, as it can be confused with a period and the viewer might misunderstand the content of what was said.
- Colons work in subtitles just like they do in grammar. The viewer will expect more information following a colon. Therefore, it is preferable to use dots if the information is something that can't be transmitted in writing.
Exclamation and Question marks
- You should avoid using too many punctuations in subtitles that do not necessarily transmit any information. It is important not to use the same punctuation repetitively.
- You should never write more than one exclamation or question mark in a row.
- Some sentences have the structure of a question, but are meant as an exclamation. Those forms should be avoided in subtitles.
- Hyphens in subtitles obey the same rules as in standard texts. You should always make sure that they don't disturb the reading flow.
- Using hyphens can make it difficult to read a subtitle:
Those are just a few important rules for punctuation in subtitles. If you want to learn more about it, we recommend you to read the book "Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling".
I hope you enjoyed reading this article!
Wilgen and the alugha team!