HOW TO FORMAT DIALOGUE IN A SCREENPLAY

A new look at an old basic, from our buds at ScriptReaderPro:

How to Format Dialogue in a Screenplay: Top 8 Dialogue Format “Errors”
via Script Reader Pro

Peppering a spec script with dialogue format errors may not completely derail the reader’s experience, but they definitely don’t help.

This is because they tell the reader one of two things:

1. You’re not a very experienced writer and are unaware of how dialogue should be formatted.

2. Or that you are aware but don’t care enough about the script (or the craft of screenwriting) to change it.

Mistakes Are Obvious

While it’s true there are no definitive rules on how to format dialogue, dialogue format mistakes are guaranteed to stand out. Which is not a good thing when you want them to be completely immersed in your story and characters.

In this post, we’ve collected together the top eight dialogue format mistakes we see writers make. These are the top eight that should be avoided if you don’t want to give the reader a bad first impression.

So, let’s dive right on in.

Dialogue Format Quirk #1: Interchanging Character Names

You’d be surprised how often we see writers jump back and forth between character names.

It may sound obvious but the most important thing to remember when it comes to character names is to keep them consistent throughout the script.

If you introduce a character as ELIZABETH she should appear throughout the script as ELIZABETH. Rather than switch to LIZ or LIZZY. Or worse yet, alternate between all three.

Likewise, if you introduce a character as CAPTAIN LYNCH he should stay as CAPTAIN LYNCH. Rather than alternate between CAPTAIN JAMES LYNCH, CAPT. LYNCH or just LYNCH.

All of the above names are acceptable, but the key is consistency.

Numbered Minor Characters  

Similarly, make sure all minor characters with numbers instead of names stick to the same format. Try to avoid the following:

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