Punctuation in Chinese Subtitles
Thread poster: Bob Hering

Bob Hering
Local time: 14:22
Jan 28, 2009

I work for a video production company. We translate subtitles into a number of languages, and I am particularly trying to evaluate some subtitles in Chinese. Particularly, I am trying to understand if periods (or full stops, as the British say) are normally included in Chinese subtitles. We have a freelance translator who suggests that they should be included, and we have a second translator that has told us that as a rule, periods are omitted (although other end punctuation, such as a question mark, are included). As no one in my company speaks Chinese, we do not have an opinion of our own, but would like to do whatever is most customary.

Is there one rule here, and if there isn't, is the choice to include or exclude periods related to any other factors such as Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese, regional/country preferences, or formality of the piece?

Thanks very much for any help,

Bob Hering

(I apologize for the English post - I asked about this on the subtitling forum, but hadn't had any replies from Chinese speakers.)


Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Punctuation may convey the emotional tone of what the characters are trying to say. Jan 28, 2009

I don't do subtitle translation. I respond to your question only from the perspective of a native Chinese speaker but not from the perspective of a Chinese subtitle translator.

Punctuation marks in every language do convey the emotional tone of the ones who are trying to express something. This emotional tone, I believe, is particularly important for novels and subtitles. Accordingly, I think punctuation is necessary for subtitle translation although it may be a practice for those in the subtitle industry to remove the punctuation marks.


ted_ip (X)  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 03:22
English to Chinese
+ ...
Normally omitted at the end of a subtitle line, but depends on nature of the texts Jan 28, 2009


I'm from Hong Kong (Traditional Chinese). My view is like this:

For subtitles in movies:

1) Periods are not used at the end of a line; however, other punctuations (e.g. !, ?, ..., etc.) are used for emphatic effects.
2) Periods can be used, however, in the middle of a subtitle line.

For example:

English subtitles:
i) Hi, Tom. Nice to meet you!
ii) John, me too.

Chinese subtitles:
i) 嗨,湯姆。很高興見到你!
ii) 約翰,我也是

However, if you are talking about the running news headlines on TV screen, sometimes periods are used.

If you can post a line or two here, it may be easier to evaluate.


[Edited at 2009-01-28 15:04 GMT]


Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Suggestions for the use of punctuation marks Jan 28, 2009

The following suggestions are excerpted from the course materials on subtitle translation from the Open University of Hong Kong:


2.1. 標點符號
2.1.1. 句末的句號和逗號常可省去
2.1.2. 具特殊作用而有助了解演員情緒的符號應保留,如:

I hereby summarize the above Chinese text below:

1. Periods and commas at the end of a sentence may often be omitted.
2. However, punctuation marks that facilitate a better understanding of characters' emotional signals should be retained, for example,
(a) Question marks: for asking questions, expressing doubt, making rhetorical questions, etc.;
(b) Exclamation marks: for expressing anger and astonishment, sighing and giving a command;
(c) Ellipsis: for expressing silence, hesitation, etc.


Angeline PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:22
English to Chinese
+ ...
Periods should be omitted. Jan 29, 2009

Hi Bob,
I translated many subtitles, for movies, newsreel and some E-learning files.
As the Shirely and Ted said, Only keep the punctuation marks which may influence the understanding of sentences, like "?","!","…","—". Periods just indicate the ending of the sentences, audiences would not be confused without periods.



Bob Hering
Local time: 14:22
that makes it very clear Jan 29, 2009

Thanks very much everyone. That makes the conventions very clear.


[Edited at 2009-01-29 13:39 GMT]


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Punctuation in Chinese Subtitles

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