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Expert screenwriting tips by working screenwriters

Watch Your Formatting

Be warned:

Ignoring screenwriting format standards is the fastest way to get your script binned by agency, prodco and contest readers.

Following the industry screenplay format standards is screenwriting 101. There is no excuse for not doing so.

A writer who ignores these rules (or does not understand them well enough to apply them correctly) sets an exceptionally unprofessional tone to readers. If a ‘screenwriter’ cannot even format their script according to simple industry standards, it speaks volumes regarding their ‘professionalism’.

Format guides

There are dozens of format guides available on the web.

Three excellent ones are included below:

Nicholl Fellowship screenplay format guide

Joe's Guide to a professional looking screenplay

Teleplay format guide by Matt Carless (95% applicable to screenplays)

Screenwriting software will help

Screenwriting software such as Final Draft and the free and excellent Celtx will aid you greatly in obeying these rules but they can't do the job entirely for you.

The solution: Simply read a format guide, understand it then apply that knowledge using your preferred screenwriting software.

The Nicholl Fellowship advises on screenplay formatting

The Academy's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting has a wealth of excellent screenwriting advice on its website and Facebook page including:

After judging that an entry is a screenplay, readers might next notice the format. As soon as a reader opens page one of a script, he has an instant indication of format. Does the submission appear to be a screenplay in format standard to the American film industry?

A glance is all it takes, and the overwhelming majority of entries pass the "glance" test. After that, nuances in format are a minor detail, and readers aren't taking points off because action description extended to five lines or slug lines are bold or "We see" was used or "Cut To:" or "Sunset" or "INT" rather than "INT." or page numbers typed as "87" or "- 87 -" or "87."

If a writer has followed any format guide or is using a dedicated screenplay program, the script will almost certainly be acceptable...

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External links

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Celtx screenwriting software

Final Draft screenwriting software

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting - Facebook page