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In printed material, a subtitle is an explanatory or alternate title. For example, Mary Shelley used a subtitle to give her most famous novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, an alternate title. Subtitles often appear below the title in a less prominent typeface or following the title after a colon.

In films, subtitles are textual versions of the film's dialog appearing onscreen. Typically films are subtitled to provide a translation of a film's dialog, but subtitles are not the only way to do this. Many foreign films are made available to the public in two formats - dubbed and subtitled.

Some connoisseurs prefer subtitles because they believe that it is more important to hear the original words and tone of voice of the actors than to see the full view of the film as the director intended it to be. For people from countries where it is common practice to subtitle foreign language movies and programs, dubbing can be extremely annoying.

Sometimes, when no subtitled copy of a film has been produced (yet), subtitles are shown on a separate display below the screen. An advantage is that nothing of the film image is lost, the disadvantage is that there is more distance between the center of the screen and the subtitles, making it more difficult to see everything at once, without directing the eyes up and down all the time.

Optionally-appearing subtitles are called "closed" subtitles. Subtitles that cannot be turned off are "open." A film or video with open subtitles that are burned indelibly into the image is deemed to be "hardsubbed." Closed captions are related but quite separate, given that captions are a transcription rather than a translation and have a different intended purpose.

In several countries or regions nearly all foreign language TV programs are subtitled, instead of dubbed, notably in:

It is likely that this is one of the reasons that many people in these countries speak English.

See also: