Should we start adding line breaks for viewing comfort again?

I can not speak for others on this matter, only for myself and my experience. As far as experience goes, as CM and CE, I never had any problem with viki paid subbers. They always reached out to me first and asked me if I was ok with they coming in. They always comment on TD when they start to sub the part, and I never experienced any overwrite in any of the projects I was in. While I was editing I could even see that they started to follow the editing I was doing and by the end of the project, I barely had any adjustment to make in breaks and italics matter. I had even occasions where they reached out to me via pm, and we talked about what did I prefer when editing, if they should do this or that. I always had a pretty open communication with the paid subber as well as the volunteers here on viki, and I never had any problems with them.


They are not all the same. Just as volunteers are not all the same.
For instance, I have only good words to say for the paid subbers on Bossam. As soon as we, the editing team, decided on something and posted it on Team Discussion (for instance, for brevity’s sake, Astronomy, Astrology and Meteorology Bureau became Astronomy Bureau), they immediately implemented it and from the next episode they wrote it as we had stipulated. I do believe they carefully read TD, even if they didn’t really take part in it.
But things are not always that idyllic.


I guess we are the lucky ones ^^

1 Like

@cerejacult – Because you do not sub from Korean to English, how would you ever experience a paid subber over-writing your subtitles? Most of the ~300 Kdramas I have edited were subbed by volunteers. When a drama is subbed by the paid subbers, editing can start as soon as upload is completed. Of course, there would be no overwriting as you edited because subbing is complete at the time of upload. Also, how do you know whether the paid subber’s translations are correct or not?
I have subbed from Korean to English, segmented and been chief editor on nearly 300 Kdrama and movies, most of which were subbed by volunteers. I am not saying our volunteers are perfect as they are not uniformly competent, but is it wrong for me to expect that paid subbers would be more competent than the unpaid volunteers, and to use breaks according to the sentence structure?


I can see if there was an overwrite while editing and if a subber is having problems saving the translation, they usually comment about it. As far as I remember, there were no cases on the projects I was in.

Not all dramas, I had many projects (Japanese, Korean, chinese) where the team were volunteers and the paid subber was to come after a time limit to fill in what was missing.

Having a good and trustworthy TE to check the translation.

I never said it was wrong, I just talked about how was my experience with them. I can not speak for others on this matter, only for myself and my experience.


I always had a pretty open communication with the paid subber as well as the volunteers here on viki, and I never had any problems with them.

That’s wonderful to know that the paid subbers kept an opened communication with you, and are doing their job so well. I honestly was worried that what happened to @cgwm808 was a common thing here now. I’m glad that’s not the case at all. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

1 Like

To answer the thread as a volunteer subber, I don’t believe there to be anything more annoying than when you see:
“I told her yesterday that I was going to watch him. But apparently she didn’t
hear me.”
No, I would like line breaks such as:
“I told her yesterday that I was going to watch him.
But apparently she didn’t hear me.”

I mean if the line breaks will be there either way, why not control them?


Because that’s how you know it’s not a dialogue (apart from the hyphens that dialogue always has)
I don’t know whether the issue with apps putting on their own spaces on top of ours (resulting several spaces) has been resolved. Viki never stated that clearly.


I think it is the hyphens that tells you it’s a dialogue and nothing else. I mean, we’ve had subtitles to everything in my country for 40 years, and I know they separate long lines between clauses. This makes it easier for the reader to follow and read more quickly. In that way they can focus on the actual movie scene and not read the subtitles only. You do miss a lot of the movie when you need to focus too much on the subtitles.

I watch other websites for romances I can’t get on Viki. They always add line breaks. Sometimes any written text is above the picture of the scene at the very top of the screen. The song lyric is above the dialogue, and the dialogue is at the very bottom always cut by a line break. What a pain for viewers! I’m a speed reader, but it’s mass confusion! I use my pause and rewind buttons a lot! It is not viewing comfort as far as I’m concerned.

Unnecessary line breaks are totally up to the subbers. Lots of them can’t write proper English, let alone know where to divide a sub so it makes the most sense!

I have watched over 1200 Asian shows, and I always come from the perspective of a viewer. I feel I must consider the viewer’s needs as a CE. Otherwise, all my volunteer work is useless.


Here is a current example of how a line break changes the meaning:

  • ♪ Only you, only you, only you < br >
    Define me ♪
  • segmenter | Dec 16
    ♪ Only you Define me ♪

“Only you, only you, only you” means only you are in my heart.
“Define me” is a command, which is impossible for most people to do.
“Only you, only you, only you define me” means you have the ability to affect or strongly impact my life.

Most subbers and many Viki editors don’t understand such implications. Native English speakers, who are proficient in English, recognize the subtlety of meaning.


“Most subbers and many Viki editors don’t understand such implications. Native English speakers, who are proficient in English, recognize the subtlety of meaning.” I agree.
That’s why the presubbed and the viki paid subbers who put breaks in and segment sentences into 3 or 4 parts seem not to understand the impact on meaning when they break up lines of dialogue and lyrics randomly. They seem to believe the viewer is only capable of reading only 4 words at a time.


Line breaks are a normal part of any subtitling. Viki’s limitation for the sake of Roku users seems to now be outdated. So breaks can be used. But only in the right places.

There are some rules for breaks on other websites. For example, one is that, when dividing a long sentence, you should try to put the break after a clause. If the sentence is simple (but long), break comes preferably after a verb.

Any other “rules” you know of?



Divide at pauses, such as comma breaks or ends of sentences
Divide before conjunctions and prepositions (and, or, for, in, on, because, etc.)
Keep articles and nouns together
First and last name of a person should appear on the same line
Keep the subject and the verb together
Keep phrasal verbs and compound verbs together (take off, watch out, put on, etc)
Avoid leaving single words on one line, even if dividing at punctuation

Always keep the text on one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation. Follow these basic principles when the text has to be broken into 2 lines:

  • The line should be broken

    • after punctuation marks
    • before conjunctions
    • before prepositions
  • The line break should not separate

    • a noun from an article
    • a noun from an adjective
    • a first name from a last name
    • a verb from a subject pronoun
    • a prepositional verb from its preposition
    • a verb from an auxiliary, reflexive pronoun or negation

In Teletext, which is used to display subtitles on some broadcast platforms, line length is limited to 37 fixed-width (monospaced) characters. Other platforms use proportional fonts, making it impossible to determine the width of the line based on the number of characters alone. In this case, lines are constrained by the width of the region in which they are displayed.

BROADCAST: 37 characters (Teletext constraint}
ONLINE: 68% of the width of a 16:9 video and 90% of the width of a 4:3 video
If targeting both online and broadcast platforms you must apply both constraints, i.e. ensure that the number of characters within a region does not exceed 37.

The number of characters that generate this width is determined by the font used, the given font size and the width of the characters in the particular piece of text (for example, ‘lilly’ takes up less width than ‘mummy’ even though both contain the same number of characters).

Rules for line and subtitle breaks:

  1. Subtitles should contain single sentences.
    Each subtitle should comprise a single complete sentence. Depending on the speed of speech, there are exceptions to this general recommendation (see “live subtitling”), short and long sentences below)

  2. Avoid three lines or more.
    A maximum subtitle length of two lines is recommended. Three lines may be used if you are confident that no important picture information will be obscured. When deciding between one long line or two short ones, consider line breaks, number of words, pace of speech and the image.

  3. Break at natural points.
    Subtitles and lines should be broken at logical points. The ideal line-break will be at a piece of punctuation like a full stop, comma or dash. If the break has to be elsewhere in the sentence, avoid splitting the following parts of speech:

  • article and noun (e.g. the + table; a + book)
  • preposition and following phrase (e.g. on + the table; in + a way; about + his life)
  • conjunction and following phrase/clause (e.g. and + those books; but + I went there)
  • pronoun and verb (e.g. he + is; they + will come; it + comes)
  • parts of a complex verb (e.g. have + eaten; will + have + been + doing)

However, since the dictates of space within a subtitle are more severe than between subtitles, line breaks may also take place after a verb. For example:

We are aiming to get
a better television service.

Line endings that break up a closely integrated phrase should be avoided where possible.

We are aiming to get a
better television service.

Line breaks within a word are especially disruptive to the reading process and should be avoided. Ideal formatting should therefore compromise between linguistic and geometric considerations but with priority given to linguistic considerations.

  1. Consider the image
    When making a choice between one long line or two short lines, you should consider the background picture. In general, ‘long and thin’ subtitles are less disruptive of picture content than are ‘short and fat’ subtitles, but this is not always the case. Also take into account the number of words, line breaks etc.

  2. Short sentences.
    Short sentences may be combined into a single subtitle if the available reading time is limited. However, you should also consider the image and the action on screen. For example, consecutive subtitles may reflect better the pace of speech.

  3. Long sentences.
    In most cases verbatim subtitles are preferred to edited subtitles (see this research by BBC R&D) so avoid breaking long sentences into two shorter sentences. Instead, allow a single long sentence to extend over more than one subtitle. Sentences should be segmented at natural linguistic breaks such that each subtitle forms an integrated linguistic unit. Thus, segmentation at clause boundaries is to be preferred. For example:

When I jumped on the bus

I saw the man who had taken
the basket from the old lady.

Segmentation at major phrase boundaries can also be accepted as follows:

On two minor occasions
immediately following the war,

small numbers of people
were seen crossing the border.

There is considerable evidence from the psycho-linguistic literature that normal reading is organised into word groups corresponding to syntactic clauses and phrases, and that linguistically coherent segmentation of text can significantly improve readability.

Random segmentation must certainly be avoided:

On two minor occasions
immediately following the war, small

numbers of people, etc.

It is also acceptable to use sequences of dots (three at the end of a to-be-continued subtitle, and two at the beginning of a continuation) to mark the fact that a segmentation is taking place, especially in legacy subtitle files.




TED Subtitling Tips - How to break lines

Generally, each line should be broken only after a linguistic “whole” or “unit,” no matter if it’s the only line in the subtitle, or the first or second line in a longer subtitle. This means that sometimes it’s necessary to rephrase the subtitle in order to make it possible to break lines without breaking apart any linguistic units, e.g. splitting apart an adjective and the noun that it refers to.
Ideally, the lines in the two-line subtitle should be more or less balanced in length.
It may be difficult to achieve balance in length when trying not to break apart linguistic units. For example, these lines are broken in a way that preserves similar length, but breaks the linguistic unit of the adjective “Romance” modifying the noun “languages”:
I can speak ten modern Romance
languages and read Latin pretty well.
In such cases, it is better to go with something less balanced, but preserve the linguistic unit:
I can speak ten modern Romance languages
and read Latin pretty well.

It is impossible to provide a list of rules to use with all the languages in the world. Line-breaking rules depend largely on the target language’s grammar (and morphology) - on what kind of units are “wholes” in a sentence. The list below contains some rules that can be used in English and several Western-European languages and can serve as an inspiration in searching for similar rules in your own language.

  • The articles ( a , an , the ) are never followed by a line break.
  • An adjective should stay together with what it is describing, but two or more adjectives can sometimes be separated with commas, and then it is possible (though not preferable) to break a line after one of the commas.
  • Clauses should stay together (never break lines after relative pronouns like which , that , who , etc.).
    *Breaking lines at clause boundaries is usually a good strategy, and commas and conjunctions (like “and”) often indicate clause boundaries.
    *If possible, auxiliary verbs should not be separated from other verbs in grammatical constructions. In other words, line breaks should be placed in ways that don’t split up complex grammatical constructions.
    *You can easily break lines at the boundaries of parentheses or interjections (usually set apart by commas)
  • Prepositions (in , on , under , etc.) should not be followed by a line break if the break would separate them from the noun they refer to.
    Note that in English, a preposition in a concrete/physical meaning (e.g. “The book is in the drawer”) always precedes a noun (or a “noun phrase,” like the big dog), and cannot be followed by a line break. However, in English, a preposition that is part of a phrasal verb (put up , figure out , take in etc.) may sometimes not be followed by a noun (“I figured it out yesterday”), and so, it can be followed by a line break.
  • Proper names should stay together if at all possible (think of them as a single word with many parts).
  • Keep forms of the verb “to be” with the predicate (Jackie/is a girl not Jackie is/a girl) and with the subject pronoun (we are/here not we/are here)
  • Keep complex grammatical forms together ( Jack has been working/in Spain not Jack has/been working in Spain)
  • Don’t break lines or end subtitles after contracted forms of verbs (Remember that book?/It’s here not Remember that book? It’s/here)
  • Keep the “to” infinitive together (It’s not difficult/to eat slowly not It’s not difficult to/eat slowly)
  • Keep articles and nouns together (Paris is/a city in France not Paris is a/city in France)
  • Keep there + to be (there is , there was , there has been … etc.) together (I heard/there is fruit not I heard there/is fruit)
  • Keep relative pronouns (that , which , whose etc.) together with the clause they introduce (I didn’t know/that the dog was blue not I didn’t know that/the dog was blue)
  • Don’t separate a pronoun used as the subject of a clause from the verb/component (e.g. I call her up;/she responds not I call her up; she/responds)
  • If at all possible, don’t break the line or subtitle after determiners: adjectives, numerals, demonstratives (like this or those ), possessives (like his or the dog’s ) or quantifiers (like some , any , every , a lot of , etc.)

For more line-breaking advice for English subtitles, see the English Style Guide

Keeping sentences unsplit

Since the sentence structure in the target language may be very different than in English, the translator won’t always be able to divide the subtitles to reflect the way in which the English sentence was split into subtitles. Keeping as much of one sentence together may help to make it easier, or possible, for the English subtitle to be translated into another language without merging or splitting subtitles in the process.
Here, we have sentences with relative clauses. If possible without breaking the reading speed and subtitle length limits (and if the subtitles don’t have to be synchronized with important action in the video), try to keep the clauses together in one subtitle. Even if the transcript splits the sentence apart, you can fix it in your translation.
Sometimes, it’s not possible to put one whole sentence into a subtitle (e.g. because of reading speed issues), but it may possible to keep a clause (part of the sentence) in a single subtitle, which is always easier for translation than when it is split. If the transcript splits up a clause, you can create one subtitle with a longer duration in your translation, and merge the little bits of the clause together.

How to end a subtitle
Generally, deciding what to put at the end of a subtitle is similar to selecting where to break a line. Below, you can learn about the most important differences between ending a subtitle and breaking a line.
Don’t end the subtitle with a bit of the next sentence
If the subtitle contains the end of a sentence, try not to include the beginning of the next sentence, and instead, put that beginning into the following subtitle.
Note that this type of “line-breaking” does not always follow the pauses in the talk. Make sure that the way you end the subtitle doesn’t reveal something that the viewer is not meant to know about yet. For example, imagine the speaker says “I tried the experiment one more time, not sure if it would work, and it did!,” and you could make it one subtitle. However, if the speaker throws up their hands in joy when saying “and it did!,” you should end the subtitle after “work,” not to reveal the “success” too soon, even though the line length would allow you to keep the whole sentence in one subtitle.


My take:

Most of those rules are just logic. Reading them for the first time, I kept thinking “of course, that’s what I would have done anyway, who would think of doing otherwise?” But not everyone feels the language to the point of finding them obvious and logical without having to study them. I have corrected very many subtitles which end with small prepositions or split a verb from its auxiliary. So, no, especially subtitlers from Korean or Chinese or Japanese to English don’t find them obvious, they’d have to learn them. A small example are subtitles (translated from Korean) that end with “but”. In English, it’s just not done. And yet Ko-En subbers do it all the time, because it’s a peculiarity of the Korean language (the notorious “hadjiman”!)
Not to mention the subtle differences that, no doubt, exist in different languages. The OL volunteers would have to think of not following the line breaks of the English but those for their own language.
But that would make it too many new rules to learn for the new volunteer and for editors. What about… we forget about line breaks?



How about we teach GEs and OL Mods the rules by referring them to these two posts you wrote? :smiley:

Btw, thank you so much for comparing and summarising rules from other sites!


We really can’t teach subbers so many rules. It’s hard enough to get subbers who know the origin languages. That’s why Viki went to mostly pre-subs and Viki paid staff who can do the pre-subs when necessary.

On Netflix, I see subs like this:
I think that is probably the right thing to do.
(I had to use underlines to place it where it actually appears because tabs don’t work on here.)

On Viki, English editors would write:
Firstly, I think that is probably the right thing to do.

If I have a choice to watch a romance on Viki or elsewhere, my first choice is Viki. It’s a relief to my eyes to watch it on Viki as all English editors I know go beyond what paid staff do on other websites!


Thank you for all this research, @irmar. All the information contained within it is immensely invaluable to me.


I’m just editing a new Kdrama, and here is how the pre-sub shows with an unnecessary break:

If the briefing concludes successfully, all the staff members
can be promoted to managers.

The break was added after “here,” but there’s no reasonable way to divide this evenly. For me, I think it must be left to the Viki app to fit the subtitle to screens of phones, tablets, laptops, etc.


Oh, you’re right! That sentence is impossible to break in a reasonable manner that would result in only two lines. If it could be three lines, you could put a break before “all”, but three lines would cover too much of the screen, unnecessarily. Might be okay for a desktop computer, but certainly not for a phone.