10 Screenplay Formatting “Rules” to Help You Avoid the Rejection Pile

Ensuring your screenplay is professionally formatted is essential if you expect to be accepted in Hollywood and avoid the rejection pile. Here are 10 tips to help you format your script correctly.

1. Read Screenplays
The best way to understand correct screenplay formatting is to read professional scripts.

2. Proofread and Edit
Typographical errors and poor grammar and punctuation are major no-no’s. Proofread and edit, then proofread and edit again.

3. The Title Page
The title page should be plain with no graphics, bound by two brass brads or Chicago screws, with the title typed in all caps, located 1/3 of the way down the page followed by “By” or “Original screenplay by” and the writer’s name. Contact information is inserted in the lower left or right corner of the page.

4. Margins & Font Specifications

  • The body of the script should be Courier 12, Single Sided, Plain paper.
  • Page numbers are placed in the upper right corner. The Title Page is not numbered. Page numbers are ½” from top and 1” in from the right side.
  • Scene headings and description (action) is left justified to the left margin.
  • Left Margin (“Gutter”) approx. 1½” (to allow for three-hole binding).
  • Top, right and bottom margins = approx. 1”.
  • Dialogue starts approx. 2½” to 3” from the left edge of the page and is always left justified.  A dialogue “block” does not exceed 3 ½” in width.
  • Parenthetical starts approx. 3” from left edge of page and does not exceed 2 ¼”  in width before “wrapping.”
  • Transitions start approx. 6¼” from left edge of the page, or just “outside” the dialogue block.
  • Character names used to indicate dialogue are not centered, they are about 4-inches from the left side of the page.

5. Scene Header Format

  • Scene headers or Sluglines are capitalized.
  • If you use the same header twice, it should be identical throughout the script.
  • Triple space between the end of a scene and the next slug line (scene heading).
  • Do not widow a scene heading (do not break it at the bottom of a page).

6. Narrative Format
Narrative (also referred to as action or description) should be short paragraphs written in present tense. CHARACTER’S name is capitalized the first time the character is introduced. SOUNDS are also capitalized.

7. Dialogue Format
The use of “Cont’d” is optional when a character speaks over and over. If a page break interrupts dialogue, use “CONTINUED” or “MORE”. In dialogue, spell out times (five-thirty), personal titles (except Mr., Mrs., and Ms.) and one and two-digit numbers (three or more digits can be written numerically).

8. Use Parentheticals Sparingly
Parentheticals (wrylys) are placed below the character’s name before the dialogue. They should only be used for clarity, to indicate another language or as a beat, such as (On the phone).

9. Avoid Camera Directions
Avoid technical terms and camera directions such as WIDE SHOT, CLOSE UP, ANGLE, or INSERT. POV (P.O.V.) is acceptable. The use of “FADE IN:” on page one and “FADE OUT.” at the end of the script is still a standard convention.

10. Extra Tips

  • Don’t break a sentence from one page to the next.
  • Don’t over-use ellipsis (three dots) to indicate pauses.
  • Scene numbers aren’t required in reading drafts.
  • Don’t “cheat the page count” by adding extra space to increase your page count, or cram more on the page to decrease the count.
  • Avoid excessive use of bold, underscore, and italics.