Secrets of Linguists: The Art of Subtitling

I want to share some tricks subtitlers have to use while subtitling.

After this, you will never look at subtitles the same way.

I’ll tell you: textual reduction is always necessary when subtitling.


– The assimilation of oral speech is faster than written speech, and it takes more time to read

– Seeing and hearing simultaneously – we need enough time to combine vision and hearing

– Text depends on time, reading speed, and output speed.

Very important – before starting: 

When you receive the video, it is essential to preview it before starting to subtitle to understand what must stay and what can be removed – see it 1, 2, 3 times. 

Thus, we realize that some phrases can be removed and others not, even if they seem secondary.

Full or partial reduction?

Eliminate what is irrelevant to understanding the message and/or rephrase concisely.

Condensation and Reformulation

• Simplify sentence structures

• Use equivalent expressions

• Use simple tenses, active voice instead of passive voice

• Change negative or interrogative sentences to affirmative ones


• Omit the ‘subject’ from the sentence (if unnecessary)

• Phatic expressions

• Omit unnecessary repetitions, hesitations, oral markers

• When characters are speaking at the same time, omit the lines that are less relevant in the dialogue in question