A question I am often asked about in subtitling

A question that comes up a lot in my courses is about abbreviations. Can we use abbreviations in subtitles and closed captions? Just how far can we abbreviate?

Of course, there are different opinions on this topic, but I believe there are also some very good ground rules which you can go by. I have put together some very basic and easy to follow guidelines on what I think is ok to abbreviate in subtitle or caption files. I hope you will find this useful.

  • Abbreviations such as “wanna” (want to) and “gonna” (going to) are appearing more and more in captions these days.
  • Use apostrophes for abbreviations of auxiliaries like “They’d want” and “We can’t” but avoid abbreviations like “y’know” (you know) and “Jo’burg” (Johannesburg).
  • You can use numerals to indicate numbers over ten, for example; She is 15 years’ old, however we don’t use numeric expressions, for example; “the 3 of us” or “100s of times.”
  • Use acronyms like “UCLA” and “NATO” but acronyms like “PM” (Prime Minister) should be avoided.
  • Symbols such as “&” should also be avoided.

Numerals, apostrophes, acronyms and symbols all save character space by abbreviating meaning signs, we should however, use them cautiously. We always need to correctly render the meaning of the dialogue in the subtitles and keep within the restrictions of appearance.

I hope you have found these guidelines helpful in identifying what to abbreviate and what not to.

Have a great day!

Kelly O’Donovan

Creator of opportunities – http://www.gosub.tv





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