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Screenplay Formatting

Formatting the screenplay is definitely the non- glamour part of writing the screenplay. It would be nice if you could  just write your story without regard to the formatting. But, the first thing that is noticed about your screenplay is not the content, but the format. No screenplay should ever be rejected on the grounds that it was improperly formatted.

The rules are fairly straight forward, but do change from time to time. Actually, the formatting seems to change a little from screenwriting book to screenwriting book, screenwriting web site to screenwriting web site. We finally settled on what follows below. We are assuming that you are using a computer with some type of word processing program (If you are old school and still using a typewriter you can still use the formatting instructions on this page).  There are some computer programs that can automatically format your screenplay for you (check software links), but we found Microsoft Word fairly easy to use. A visual example of formatting can be seen in the SCREENPLAY EXAMPLE, and on some of the screenwriting links page. The list below is just a start of  formatting the screenplay. We suggest that you start here, and then see the formatting in action in the example screenplay.

*Use COURIER font 12 point. No other font should be used. No boldface, or italics either.

*DO NOT print out you screenplay on a dot matrix printer, or on colored paper. (Photocopies are O.K.- may sure you copy on at least 20 lb paper).

*Use any color plain CARD STOCK covers (It looks like construction paper to me, but you can get it at any office supply store) for the front and back of your screenplay.

*The screenplay should be 3-hole punched, and simply bound with two (2) 1-1/4 inch brass brads (Acco #5 brads are fine). Matching brass washers are also a nice touch.

*The SCREENPLAY LENGTH should be between 90-120 pages long. (If the story is good enough it can be longer, but studio readers don't like to read long screenplays). 1 pages is equal to about 1 minute of movie time.

*The COVER PAGE should include the title of the work surrounded by quotation marks, or underlined, centered on the page. The authors name should follow. Your address, phone number, and E-mail address (if you have one) should be located on either the lower left or right side of the page. Do not date, or put draft versions on the page (Who needs to know that you wrote your screenplay in the 80's).

*The MARGINS should be set at 1.25-1.5 inches LEFT and 1 inch RIGHT; The TOP and BOTTOM margin should be 1 inch (The top and bottom margins can be shortened it the a line of dialog must be added).

*Do not include a list of characters, synopsis, or  treatment in the screenplay.

*The first line on the first page is always FADE IN; The last line of the screenplay is always FADE OUT

*The SLUGLINES or MASTER SCENE HEADINGS start from the left margin, and should be 6 inches (about 60 characters) wide, and in ALL CAPS.

*CHARACTERS NAMES start at column 33 (Tab set), and should be in ALL CAPS.

*DIALOG should start at column 22 (Tab set), about 3 inches wide, and appear directly below the character name (unless WRYLIES are used).

*PARENTHETICALS or WRYLIES can be either centered under the characters names, or started at column 30 directly underneath the characters names. DO NOT OVERUSE this in your screenplay. You are giving directions to the actors, or actresses  in your play which can take away some of what they bring to characters. WRITERS WRITE; ACTORS ACT; DIRECTOR DIRECT (In other words, don't do their jobs).

*The PAGE NUMBER should be the first line after the top margin in column 60.

*VO and OS are single spaced to the right side of the character name in  CAPs.

*SINGLE SPACE between all dialog, sluglines, and page numbers.


Screenplay Formatting