English subtitle editing

None of us are perfect. :smile: I find I tend to leave out a period or type a period instead of a comma without realizing it. I always go over my work a second time to hopefully catch my human errors.

For people like me who struggle with perfectionism, don’t let the fear of making mistakes deter you from being an English editor. We do the best we can. That’s all anyone can do. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Very amusing. :slight_smile: Sorry, but if somebody actually needs this extensive a list of your pedantic “reminders”, they need not be worried about editing anything, but more concerned first with true fluency in English.

GeNie of the Lamp, Editor to the Stars

I beg to differ. I know people who are highly fluent in English, but struggle with spelling. These are common spelling errors I noticed in subtitles, and I would never doubt any editor’s fluency in English. I’m glad you are a perfect speller as we need more editors like you. :slight_smile:

I even have to check myself between emigrate and immigrate, farther and further. I try never to edit when I’m tired, but if a time crunch requires that, I have my list handy. When I’m tired, I tend to make mistakes or not catch the translator’s errors in spelling. Many of our TEs are fluent in English, yet have misspelled these words.

A segment may be translated well, but if the spelling is “except” rather than “accept,” the whole meaning of the subtitle becomes wrong. I have seen this common spelling mistake on NF and they pay professional subtitlers. I doubt anyone would label a professional, who earns their living that way, as lacking true fluency in English. :smile:


I went through the entire thread reading your posts. Most of the examples you’ve listed are mistakes that I notice and that irk me when I see them. Every time I see translation errors I wish I could do something about it but I’m always apprehensive about how I can contribute without knowing Chinese or Korean.
Thank you for taking the time to write this down. I’ll feel more comfortable having gone through your notes if I ever volunteer.


One of my first Channel Managers wrote back in 2010 that while she appreciated that we editors did our best to create high quality subtitles, an episode of a Korean drama is not a Ph.D, dissertation. This simple thought led me to the decision that I would release the subtitles for translation to other languages for subbing when I was satisfied with the state of completion and correctness but would continue to correct any errors indefinitely.


@mirjam_465, oh dear oh dear, you started a sentence in written form with ‘And’. Repeat after me.
“One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and”. :rofl: joking aside, English is a funny old language . (With both equal emphasis on funny and old) tricky homonyms are just one example of the English language being a bit bizarre.

I think it’s important for people to remember that when it comes to the English-language. There are different variants of it. The two most prominent being American English (EN-US) and great British English (EN-GB) . There are other variants of English, of course, but most the Commonwealth countries tend to be somewhat closer to EN-GB. While the difference between the two most prominent variants of English may not be immediately apparent in general day-to-day use. If you dive a little deeper. The difference between the two can be quite distinct, especially in terms of spelling and phrasing . I have elaborated a little bit on why this is in another topic which can be found here. Needless to say what is considered a mistake can often come down to which of the two most prominent variants of English one has a preference for.

You can probably guess from the phrasing I’m using. Where I’m from and which of the two most prominent variants of English I have a preference for :grin:

The point is, with regard to the English-language and subtitling. Whatever you do, you are never going to make everybody happy. In the case of myself being British, I noticed many things that would be considered as mistakes in the English subtitling. Given that most of the shows on here are subtitled according to EN-US.

Too be honest the mistakes I notice don’t bother me all that much because I am aware that in most cases, the individuals doing the subtitling use English as a second or third language And I am aware that EN-US could be considered easier to learn than its British counterpart. I know the fact that the mistakes don’t really bother me, may surprise some, as we British are known for having something of a superiority complex when it comes to the English language. I can honestly say as someone else in this topic, mentioned. University grade English for subtitling of overseas programming is not expected and nor should it ever be, especially in case of Viki as the vast majority of subtitling is provided by volunteers who give up their spare time so we mustn’t be overly critical. I think in some of the other topics I’ve seen on here. People can be overly critical, which annoys me a bit.

On a personal note, I often think the subtitling on Viki is often better than the supposedly ‘professional’ subtitling that Netflix provides for overseas programming.


One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.
One must not start a sentence in written form with the word and.

Satisfied, seonsaengnim? :stuck_out_tongue:

I guess it’s also cause we may learn English from diffent sources or at least be influenced by different sources. I originally learned Brittish English in school, but of course there were music and movies in American English and throughout the years I talked to people from different parts of the world and read books in different kinds of English. So I guess my English is more of a mixture than really one demarcated version of English. And (oops! Did I say “and” at the beginning of a sentence? :wink: ) I guess that may be the case for a lot of non-native speakers …

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I somewhat agree with you that no one is writing a Theseus, but sometimes I fear the incorrect usage of English may cause me to misunderstand the culture of the project. I also fear I will do this myself. It is why I have hesitated until now to volunteer.

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[quote=“command_234, post:20, topic:29255”]
On a personal note, I often think the subtitling on Viki is often better than the supposedly ‘professional’ subtitling that Netflix provides for overseas programming.
[/quote] Bravo and thank you. It is true – I have been told that by native speakers of Korean who are fluent in English.
The reason why at viki US English is used rather than UK English is simple – perhaps 90% of the subbers reside in the US. And from my frequent interaction with the Korean to English subbers at viki, more often than not, the subbers’ “native” language is American English but they are first, second or third generation Americans who learned Korean in their homes. This is not to ignore that we have had some wonderful Korean to English subbers at viki whose native language is French, Romanian, German, Spanish and Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. A majority of our subbers seem to have been born in the US, or emigrated to the US as extremely young children.


That’s interesting. So things are not as I believe them to be and it perhaps helps to explain why subtitles are so good on here in the grand scheme of things.

It does make you wonder what is Netflix’s excuse for the subtitles of overseas programming being questionable. You can sometimes be watching and have to do rewind to try and make sense out of the subtitles.

To be honest, we British are used to seeing American English everywhere as it’s what’s used on most English webpages on the Internet. Whenever we comment on American English. We are more often than not doing it in jest. We British will take the Mickey out of anybody, including ourselves as British humour is very self-deprecating and dry. People sometimes don’t know how to take this at first, and can sometimes be offended by it. I would say the only thing that does actually annoy us a little bit is the American date format to us dates go shortest notation of time to longest notation of time so that would be:


The American format just doesn’t make sense logically and will often confuse us for a few seconds when we are trying to fill in web forms.

It must depend on dramas?
I don’t watch a lot of dramas on Netflix.

For most Kdramas I’ve watched on Netflix: Kingdom 1 and 2 (historical/zombie), Itaewon Class (modern/everyday life), Designated Survivor: 60 Days (political vocabulary), English subtitles are understandable.

There are a very very few mistakes (typos, conjugation or sentence structure) on these 4 Kdramas I’ve watched on Netflix for English subtitles.
As for the accuracy / meaning, I can’t tell, I’m not a specialist, but there was no sentence I wondered what it meant. It was easy to read and the fluency was there.

Maybe I have to watch more Kdramas there and compare.

I have to say that on Viki, it is different, because we can lack TE volunteers depending on the drama, so we can tell that sometimes, the sentence is weird (not everywhere of course).

But it’s inherent to Viki community system and control of quality, we can’t always be picky and we do with what we have, it’s palpable in the outcome.

Whereas on Netflix, something is not right, viewers have a button, we click quality problems in the subtitles, they can inform the translators they paid for or recruit someone else who can do it.

Whereas on Viki, something is not right, if we don’t have the TE who can do it or is available, then we might wait for a long time or forever.

I think both Viki and Netflix have their pros and cons.
From subtitling in Kdramas, most volunteers here can tell that sometimes it’s not understandable and we got to ask around or to look on other websites or on scripts even if we have little knowledge in the original Asian language, but what else can we do?


Indeed, they are understandable. Most of the time. The subtitles might not be necessarily wrong. I do have a theory that might explain why understanding is sometimes reduced

I think the issue may be that the subtitles can sometimes end up being a bit generic /robotic because they often don’t provide extra context/explanation for particular pop culture references and phrases which viki often does in situations where an extra context/ explanation is required, so you often lose some of the context of the conversation. Or at least I haven’t seen Netflix do this as of yet.

Perhaps I just need to watch more stuff on Netflix. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the UK is still for the most part in lockdown although they are starting to release some of the measures now , albeit very slowly.

There are two schools of thought on this.
It’s fine to Start a Sentence with a Coordinating Conjunction. And, but, or are the three most common coordinating conjunctions. In fact, a substantial percentage of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.
In formal writing, avoid starting a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but”.
We are not formal here, but we always use proper English in subtitling. :wink:
My English professors advocated using “And” for emphasis. Example: And if you choose to employ me, I will do my utmost.

It is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. However, lots of people still consider it an error. Because the direct object of a phrasal or prepositional verb is shifted to the position of the subject in such passive-voice constructions, the preposition will be left dangling or hanging at the end of the clause. For example: I wonder who/whom this book was written by. Hence, “by” is the dangling preposition of the object who/whom. In fact, in some situations, you have to end a sentence with a preposition because there is no other choice. However, many of us are taught that we should not end sentences with prepositions.
You can probably guess, from the phrasing I’m using, where I’m from and for which of the two most prominent English variants I have a preference. This would be formal English. :blush:
I was born in a tiny British Commonwealth country, then grew up in Canada, spent a couple years in the USA, and I happily use either British or American English. I used to enjoy watching British sitcoms! Now Viki takes most of my leisure time.

I did not mean to start a comparison between Viki and NF, although I have watched most everything NF offers in Asian dramas. I was simply replying to the issue on fluency for editors. This post is to help mywishingflower and other people who wish to volunteer in English subtitle editing. Even the most encouraging CMs are cautious to allow me to train a new English editor because of time pressures. Does anyone have an older movie or drama where you would be willing to allow me to train mywishingflower to edit subtitles? I’m willing to train her by being on the subtitle editor chat, guiding her along by episode. Then when she and I both feel confident of her abilities, I would allow her to go first, and I would follow her, pointing out better re-edits.
Please, send me a message if you have access to an older show: https://www.viki.com/users/worthyromance/overview

Most English editors have to understand an origin language, which is great. However, they may not be proficient in spelling and grammar so we do need English to English editors. Also, an increasing number of shows are arriving pre-subbed by paid TEs who lack in what Viki viewers expect of our teams. This is increasing our need for good English to English editors.


I just realised some of my punctuation with a bit wrong there. @worthyromance made me realise it when part of my earlier post, was quoted. I’ll now reveal something which I hope wasn’t immediately obvious.

I use dictation software to write most posts, especially longer ones. This is because I have a condition that affects the fine motor skills in my hands. This affects the speed at which I can type and therefore means composing anything more than a relatively short post by hand can be rather time-consuming.

While the software is very good. It occasionally makes mistakes. especially when using it in a web browser where some of the more advanced functions don’t work correctly. I do pick up on most of the mistakes and correct but occasionally something will slip through, and I often feel like a Muppet when something does slip through. I apologise.

The something of an irony here. We are talking about editing English and I’m having to edit English almost every time I write a post.


I’m very sorry to hear that your hands’ fine motor skills are affected. I had a stroke which paralyzed my left side. Although I regained use of my left hand miraculously against doctors’ prognosis, it lacks strength and flexibility to type. I relearned to type with one hand.

Imagine if computer software makes mistakes, we humans must not be down on ourselves for human error. That’s why we recheck subtitles. I believe that’s also an excellent reason to have both a TE and general English editor on a drama. :sunny:


Dear Irmar, I’m a Mod., Editor and Subtitler and even though my English written skills aren’t good my reading skills are so I Really dislike to see edited dramas with common grammar/spelling mistakes. When it happens, I tell my team to translate as if the sentence was correct. For native speakers, many things may make good sense but are not correct for us who were taught English as foreign language. ‘Aren’t I’ is used and acceptable but it’s still not gramatically correct and, also, it’s informal. So I as CM can ask, specially if I’m on a Period drama, to avoid the use of it and ask for a equivalent expression. Why should I leave it to the Chief Editor to decide? It’s my duty to do the best for the drama and help out stating my concerns/helping to improve the translation.

Also, reversed sentences are the right way to make questions. ‘You’re hungry?’ Is grammatically incorrect, ‘Are you hungry?’ is the right way of doing a question. My teachers would ‘kill us’ if we didn’t reverse sentences to make questions. An exception would be ‘You’re hungry, right?’ because the question word is ‘right’. But we see plenty of these non gramatical questions in dramas. The worst case is when we find them in Period ones - because it’s supposed Period dramas to have a more formal speech unless the character is uncultured. At least this is what I’ve been taught here since I started in 2018.

So I think the CM nor only can but Must butt in when it’s necessary. It’s his/her channel. His her responsibility. Besides, four eyes can see more than two. Nobody should feel like if the CM is stepping over but see him/her as an element of the team to help out and improve things.

I’m as CM, make covers, recruit everyone (seggers, Mods., ENG subbers, Editors), check for any English grammar or spelling error… What sin would I be committing? None, except that it’s too much work for me. But I believe that’s what the responsible of a channel should do: help and support fully the team + guarantee that subtitles are delivered at the best quality and speed possible. It’s Totally unacceptable for a drama to take months and months to be edited. All other languages viewers lose interest and the team too.

No drama is perfect, we don’t see all that is in need of correction, but at least we work as a team and can always rely on each other. And editing + delivering episodes to other dramas turns faster, believe me.

As for the help of a CM, for instance, between these two questions:
How much do you think I could sell my kidney for?
How much do you think I could get for my kidney?

Which one would you’d choose as more correct?

If you were CM and your Editors couldn’t come up with definitive a choice.


It’s his or her responsibility to choose a Chief Editor who will do all these things correctly, not only appropriate grammar but also appropriate style for the period and for each character.
For instance, I routinely correct “okay” and “yeah” when it’s a senior Korean person speaking. There’s no way that a Korean president or professor would use this informal tone of language. I leave this for young characters speaking to their peers. If they talk to their parents, even, I change it to a bit more formal, because I know how these countries are more formal than ours and how they speak to their elders.

It’s very true that four eyes can see more than two and that we’re all human, so when editing, some things might slip through the sieve. Especially typos.
I have experienced this very recently. I had just edited and released an episode, when the TE wrote that she had made quite a few changes, without saying which segments. She was sleeping at the time (different time zones) so I couldn’t ask her, but I had to act quickly, since the episode was already released and OL were already starting to translate. Therefore, I had to go through the whole thing again. And I wasn’t too happy about it, I admit. HOWEVER, while doing this, apart from the TE’s changes (which were indeed useful and necessary), I also saw quite a few other sentences which had a small typo or other thing to be changed, and I made enough edits for me to say that it was worth looking at twice.
So yes, there will inevitably be some mistakes left. If someone sees a mistake or typo or whatever, be it CM or even Other Language mod or subber, s/he is welcome to write a note and let the editors know. If I’m told of something like that, even if it’s an old drama from years ago, I thank the person and I immediately go back to correct it.
So this is perfectly okay. But not touch the subs themselves. The final responsibility for the quality of the language is with the English editors, and nobody should make any changes after them.


First, the rule that one must not end a sentence with a preposition (“for”) is no longer the norm. Ending a sentence with a preposition is acceptable. While “sell” might be used more often when talking about receiving money in exchange for an object, “get” also means receiving something. To me the alternatives are equally acceptable.

Second, a CM who is a native speaker of English has been the exception, not the rule for me. Occasionally, a fellow editor from other projects has been the CM and we have shared chief editor’s position. On some occasions I have been the CM and someone else has been the appointed by me to be Chief Editor for English. I don’t second guess her decisions – if I had any doubts about her judgment, I would not have appointed her. Otherwise, I have never had the experience of a CM tweaking the English subs after I have edited them.


Generally, there has to be ONE person who has the ultimate responsibility.
Because there are things that belong to grammar and can only be right or wrong, but there are many other sentences where it’s a grey area, there’s no right or wrong but it’s a question of style, of rhythm, of perceived difference in register among different characters and ultimately of personal preference. In such cases, if two different people interfere, there will be a great confusion and non-uniformity of style throughout the drama.

An orchestra cannot be just a bunch of soloists, there has to be a conductor. There may be 300 ministers in the government, but still if they cannot reach a decision, there has to be the prime minister who says the last word.
In a theatrical company, or a film, even if the actors are excellent, they all have to follow the style that the director wants, otherwise it wouldn’t be a harmonious whole but just unrelated people reciting monologues, each one in his or her own acting style, each one with his or her own understanding of the plot and the characters’ motivation. What a mess!

Even when two people are equal leaders, for instance in the case of two parents, they have to work in close collaboration, solve any differences in the background, out of sight of the children, and then, to the children, they must present a united front. Otherwise their children will be confused, not knowing whom to follow, what are the rules.

In my case, when I work as General Editor, I make it my business to learn the Chief Editor’s preferences for things where two options are available. I know which option she favors and I use that. Even if it’s not my preference. Otherwise, I’d be needlessly giving her more work to correct it - what’s the point?
That’s how we have unity of style and avoid conflict.


It’s not an error to end a sentence with a preposition in emails, text messages, and notes to friends. But in proper English, avoid ending sentences with dangling prepositions. It can’t be avoided where the preposition is part of a phrasal verb: to blow up, put up with, go on.

How much do you think I could sell my kidney for? This was a dangling preposition because it was ambiguous in the context. How much (meaning vehement intention) I want to sell was implied. How much I want to sell my kidney! How much do you think I could sell my kidney for (paying off your debts or for the baby’s operation)? This was also implied.
How much do you think I could get for my kidney? This statement was no longer ambiguous.

I have found a drama for mywishingflower to train as an English editor. I offered on several older shows with many obvious errors. Some examples I still recall:
The lollipop is sweat in your mouth. (sweet)
The odds is 138 to one. (are)
That right. (That’s)

It wasn’t easy to get a show for her to train. Most CMs tend to go with experienced editors, even though they may be swamped with projects so that they miss the majority of such errors!