Song lyrics are almost always subtitled. As a general rule of thumb, the lyrics should be verbatim, especially in the case of well-known songs, which should never be edited.

But there are some exceptions where it may be best to leave the lyrics unsubtitled:

  • You consider the visual information on the screen to be more plot pertinent than the song lyrics.
  • Short snippets of a song are interspersed with any kind of speech and this would lead to confusion for the viewer.

Appearance of lyrics: Generally, song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) followed by a space at the beginning and the end of each subtitle and they should be in italics.

Keep punctuation in songs to a minimum, with punctuation only within lines (when grammatically necessary) and not at the end of lines. You should, however, avoid full stops in the middle of otherwise unpunctuated lines.

Use an uppercase letter at the beginning of each line.

A falling star fell from your heart

And landed in my eyes

Similarly, if the song lyrics do not finish at the end of the song, put three dots at the end of the line to show that the song continues in the background or is interrupted.

Synching of lyrics: The timing of song lyrics will not always follow the conventional timings for speech subtitles. They should be kept closely in sync with the soundtrack.

About the author:

GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.

Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, I used my know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audio-visual courses.

From my years of experience working I have learned a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. I decided to couple this involvement with my other skill set, which is teaching.

GOSUB was created for you, and I hope that you will find my courses of value.

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