Errors in Subtitling, and How to Avoid Them

The act of converting audio into text and showing it on the screen while the video plays along is known as subtitling, and it involves both technical and creative elements. It is true that subtitles are an art form that may portray a character’s personality or even change it. As audio visuals are now ubiquitous, it is crucial to interpret them so that everyone may comprehend them. This is a way to get the word out, expand, and speed up growth.

Subtitling must be done correctly and meticulously. It’s important to subtitle carefully and correctly. It has happened many times that a misspelled word or a lack of punctuation may lead to misconceptions and spread like wildfire. At times, though, these errors are difficult to overlook and the film is difficult to watch.

You may have put a lot of effort into making a video, but even a small mistake in the subtitles might ruin everything. You can suffer a significant loss that might have been averted as a result of the audience’s confusion, a decline in ratings, and other factors. Subtitling errors may make or break a video’s success. Your relationship with your audience would suffer from poor translation, which would also affect your ratings.

The impact of subtitling errors while using translation

Your subtitles must be exact if you want to create a high-quality video. Online, subtitling errors are frequently shared for humorous entertainment.

In a fast-paced atmosphere, such mistakes can be brushed off as a simple oversight, but if it appeared in advertising or other content that customers would see, it could drastically damage the reputation of your company. The correctness of video subtitling is just one factor, though. The final quality of the movie is also impacted by certain additional typical translation errors.

As a result, it’s crucial that proper subtitling be employed when translating speeches and showing them as text on screens. To ensure that you don’t lose your audience in translation, look through some common subtitle mistakes and learn how to prevent them:

Top mistakes to be avoided while doing subtitling

Misalignment of Text and Speech

When there are multiple performers of the same age in a video, you will observe that everyone has the same speaking style. This implies that the text displayed on the screen should fit their style as well. That should not appear strange. If there are several characters speaking different languages, you should focus on the style to assist the viewer detect the linguistic differences and relate to the scene they witness.

For instance, your translated subtitles should have the same tone or objective as the film itself if it just features children. A language that is too formal will be confusing in such a film.

Word-to-Word Translation

The benefit of video material is that it’s easy for viewers to relate to what they see. Nevertheless, if your subtitles are out of sync with the visuals behind them, you might lose this edge in a matter of seconds. In several languages, words have various meanings. If you choose an exact, word-for-word translation, you risk embarrassing yourself because of language differences. You have to translate while maintaining the intended message in the target language.

Every language has a unique way of expressing metaphors and other ideas. Such a phrase that is appropriate for the situation must be found. So, you must have sufficient knowledge of the language you are translating into.

A word-by-word translation of “it’s pouring cats and dogs,” for instance, is impossible since the outcome would be nonsense. Writing that animals are falling from the sky in a foreign language would be absurd.

Maintaining a little pause between each subtitle

It’s the most regular mistake that people commit. That is a problem that is present in the majority of online videos. It’s not a skill that everyone possesses to read lines quickly. Humans often take longer to read than to speak.

Your viewers will become irritated if there is a long pause between subtitles and may choose to see your rivals’ content instead. If you keep subtitles brief, viewers who are deaf in particular will find it challenging to watch any video.

Make sure there is a sufficient gap so that visitors may read calmly and leisurely. Make sure the time interval between subtitles is more than 2 seconds when adding subtitles to a video.

Insufficient Punctuation

Periods are hardly used in subtitles. Yet if you want to keep the meaning clear, exclamation points and question marks are crucial. Commas, colons, semicolons, and apostrophes make sentences understandable and highlight concepts in the script.

The general audience won’t comprehend what you’re attempting to communicate without punctuation. Make sure your source text contains the appropriate punctuation, and instruct your subtitlers to adhere to the target script’s best practices.

Unreadable Texts

How will the audience read if the text is too tiny or in the wrong color? Bearing in mind that many viewers watch films on mobile phones, you must pay attention to such little aspects. That will improve the user experience even further. Because of the font size or backdrop color, good subtitling may go unnoticed if it is not clearly evident. The impact of even a small error may be enormous.

The backgrounds should be considered as well when choosing the text’s color. Thus, stay away from:

  • White text on white background
  • Purple text on Red background
  • Light text on a Black background

Subtitle quality is decreased by unnatural line breaks

The natural method of speaking must be reflected in the subtitles. The lines ought to follow a sentence or the conclusion of a phrase. If the text were randomly divided, it would be impossible for the reader to follow the lines. It must be possible for your audience to simultaneously view the video and read the subtitles. You risk losing your audience if they must read a statement more than once to get its meaning.

Any artificial break in your subtitles has to be edited. Take the risk, even if it means completely rewriting the translation. By doing this, it would be possible to view the video and have the subtitles follow along easily. Moreover, it makes certain that the general populace is aware of what is meant by “easily” and “properly.”

Wrong Timing

Nothing could be a worse mistake than having the subtitles read something different from what the character is saying. You should be careful to time your subtitles correctly because this is a pretty typical error. The speech wouldn’t be something the audience would want to read either before or after the character delivers it. If not, you would have created a pointless subtitle.

Run the subtitles on the chosen video to make sure they are timed and cued correctly and to make any required modifications. For subtitles to be successful and provide the desired outcomes, they must be positioned and timed properly.

Using subtitles without audio visual material

Without the audio-visual content, it is impossible to create subtitles using simply the script. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably make plenty of blunders. Without the video content you would be unaware of many aspects and would be more likely to make mistakes that may have been prevented. Without context, there would be a continuous contradiction between the subtitles and the visual information that the viewer would be receiving.

Long sentences in the subtitles

Things are not quite simple to perform when it comes to subtitles. Typically, there is a limit of two lines of text per screen. Otherwise, there would be a chance that the video would be hidden. In addition, there just isn’t enough time in the world for everyone to read everything on the screen. The video cannot be watched in this manner if the image has no bearing on the words visible on the screen.

After becoming agitated, the audience quits watching the video when it becomes too confusing. Only when the characters are speaking or when there is some other type of audio do subtitles need to be visible on the screen.

Long phrases would make it difficult to interpret them correctly, which would lead to misunderstanding. You must adequately fulfil these technical prerequisites in order to work as a subtitler. Be careful to use straightforward language while writing fresh content, whether it’s conversation or a story. This makes it simple for subtitlers to adapt the screenplay to satisfy technical standards.

Use of automated translation

The world in which we live is totally dominated by technology. There are several stories on the internet about how great computers are at doing our tedious work for us, presumably increasing efficiency and reducing expenses. But, issues with video subtitling, closed captioning, and translation make matters more complicated.

Machine Translation Software cannot take the role of human translation. While machine translation can provide a passable rendition of your work, the meaning will be lost. Humor, emotions, irony, and sarcasm cannot be translated by computers. Your audience should be more engaged if you use video content. But if you don’t provide your audience with a reliable translation in the shape of excellent subtitles, they won’t watch. Automatic subtitles are robotic and difficult to relate to.

How Can You Prevent Subtitle Errors?

Timing of the Subtitles

When it comes to watching a subtitled videos, timing is crucial. Your subtitles should flow and coincide with the conversation. You should also make sure that the subtitles stay on the screen long enough for the typical individual to read the text. Subtitles that are overly quick will irritate the viewer.

Don’t Obstruct Important Visuals 

Nothing irritates viewers more than a text block that obscures crucial visual information. Although it’s safe to put subtitles at the bottom of the screen, you might need to change the position for some sequences if there are crucial images there. The subtitles must also not be obscured by the video, making them difficult or impossible to read.

Employ Human Translation for Subtitles

Technology and machines can be useful tools in producing high-quality subtitles, but depending only on machine translation is a definite way to produce subtitles that are incomprehensible and overly challenging to follow.

As you can see, subtitling is a fairly intricate process that needs human involvement to produce a quality final output. Depending only on machine translation will generally result in inaccurate translations, awkward placement, and poor readability.


Subtitle translation errors may turn a good video into a bad piece of material, or even render it unusable. It may appear simple at first to create subtitles on your own, but you will soon discover the complexities that come with the video localization process. People’s lack of understanding of the localization process is the core cause of many of the issues they have with translated videos. And here is where professional translators come in.

Want multi-language subtitles for your video content? Find the best partner for all your subtitling and captioning requirements – DUBnSUB. We are a subtitling company based in Gurgaon, India with branch offices in Myanmar, France, Germany, and the USA.

We offer high-quality subtitling & captioning services in over 100 languages for pre-recorded television programs, documentary films, feature films, webcasts, and podcasts.
For any requirements/queries, please contact [email protected] or give us a call. We will be more than happy to help!

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