Whether you have just completed the perfect screenplay, or are about to start writing your debut movie script, do not make the mistake of sending your creation to contests, competitions, or screenplay agents without using proper script format. The following are a few general guidelines for script formatting (the formatting suggestions listed below are based on letter-size 8.5 x 11-inch paper):
. To allow for three-hole punching, set left margin at 1.5 inches, right at 1 inch.
. Use 11- or 12-point Courier New font. Use one space after end-sentence punctuation.
. Place page numbers in the upper right-hand corner, 1 inch from right, ½ inch from top, with ½ inch between number and text.
. Capitalize sluglines and scene setting indicators. "Interior" and "Exterior" are abbreviated INT. and EXT. Example INT. LIVING ROOM — DAY (note punctuation and spacing).
. Descriptive text is 60 characters, or six inches wide, left justified and single-spaced.
. The first time a character appears in descriptive text, the character’s name should be in all caps. Afterward, initial cap only. Sound effects also appear in descriptive text in caps.
. Capitalize character names for dialogue and set at 4 inches from left margin.
. Place parentheticals one or two tabs (depending on length) to the left of the character name. (Parentheticals give extra information about how a line is to be delivered. Use sparingly.)
. Dialogue in scripts or screenplays is indented left and right and is 3.5 inches wide.
. If descriptive text interrupts a character’s dialogue, insert (cont’d) or (cont) to the right of the character’s name the second time the name appears.
. Try not to break dialogue across pages.
. If a character is speaking offscreen, insert (O.S.) to the right of the character’s name. If you want to indicate a voice-over, insert (V.O.) to the right of the name.
. Double-space between dialogue blocks and blocks of descriptive text.
. Ideal page length for feature film or full-length stage plays is 110 to 115 pages, about two hours.
. For the title page, center the title and your name in the middle of the page. Don’t use quotation marks. Type your name and address in the lower right-hand corner.
. Copy your script on three-hole paper and bind with metal fasteners.
Setting up your own computer
Using the above margins and tabs, any word-processing program can be set up to format a screenplay. You can also purchase screenwriting software that automatically formats as you type. Final Draft 8.0, Hollywood Screenwriter, Movie Magic Screenwriter 6, and Scriptware are popular screenplay-formatting programs.
For more general tips on formatting, see our other articles: Formatting Numbers In Creative Writing, Don’t Let Misused Hyphens Muddle Your Writing: Basic Hyphenation Rules, and Manuscript Proofreading and Formatting.