Hollywood is picky. If you don’t do something by the book, your screenplay could easily end up in the trash. We don’t want that to happen. Here are 5 formatting mistakes you can avoid.

Formatting your screenplay correctly is important, especially in the world of film. We don't want mistakes.
Formatting your screenplay correctly is important, especially in the world of film. We don’t want mistakes.
Photo by Edgar Colomba from Pexels

1. Not Using Courier, 12-point Formatting

Courier, 12-point font is standard formatting in screenplays. You MUST use this! There is no work around here. If you’re not using the proper font to write your screenplay, no one will give your screenplay a second chance. It’s always important to stick to proper screenplay formatting.

You shouldn’t try to get fancy with the font color either. It needs to be black ink on white paper. This is a very serious rule in the film industry and needs to be taken seriously while you write your screenplay. Mistakes in the font of your screenplay won’t be tolerated.

2. Not Using the Proper Margins

1-inch margins are uniform on all screenplays. This is another formatting rule that you need to follow. A mistake here won’t be accepted. Filmmakers take this rule seriously. Changing your margins is like cheating the screenplay formatting rules. You won’t be able to write it off as a simple mistake.

One page of a screenplay equals one minute of a film. You need to keep your screenplay between 90-120 pages. If you were to alter your margins, the screenplay might go over time. It’s a mistake most people won’t even deal with.

3. Misusing Parantheticals

TARA
(confused)
I don’t understand.

A parenthetical can be tricky. If it’s obvious that your character would speak in a certain way, you don’t need to use them. It’s a mistake many people make in their screenplay. Take the example above. It’s clear that Tara’s confused by the dialogue she’s saying. The parenthetical is pointless. It’s just bad screenplay formatting at this point.

The time to use a parenthetical is when you wouldn’t know how the character should speak otherwise. If the parenthetical is the only way to understand what your character’s going through, use it. Another tip: the proper formatting of a parenthetical is in dialogue before they speak the words you applied them to. That’s how readers expect to see it in your screenplay.

PRESLEY
(whispers)
Do you think they’ll find us here?
A mistake in your screenplay won't be easily overlooked. Stick to proper formatting.
A mistake in your screenplay won’t be easily overlooked. Stick to proper formatting.
Photo by Lê Minh from Pexels

4. Overusing Scene Transitions

When you’re writing a screenplay, be careful about the scene transitions you use. Remember, you’re not in charge of the film. You’re writing it, but someone else might control the transitions. You shouldn’t end every scene with FADE OUT. That’s bad formatting and will get old fast.

Only use scene transitions when you believe they are necessary in your screenplay. Other than that, let whoever films the screenplay be in charge of what transitions to use. Adding too many transitions can be a colossal mistake. Although, one place you must have a transition is at the very end of your screenplay, that’s a formatting rule.

FADE OUT.

5. Gravestone Dialogue

In the same way readers look at long paragraphs and groan, they look at long blocks of dialogue and get an immediate headache. You should keep your screenplay dialogue between four or five lines. If your character has a lot to say, break it up with action.

They call it gravestone dialogue because it looks like the words are sprawled across a gravestone, long. It’s bad formatting and should only rarely be included in your screenplay. Here’s an example of gravestone dialogue against regular dialogue:

Gravestone Dialogue Formatting

SHEP

Listen, kid. I’m hearing what you’re telling me. Really, I am. But you’ve got to understand, you’re one of the lucky ones. I don’t think you get it. You’ve got a family that cares, and yeah, they can be crazy sometimes. That’s how every family is. If you leave and go somewhere new, they’ll be just as crazy. Do you get it?

Regular Dialogue Formatting

SHEP

Listen, kid. I’m hearing what you’re telling me. Really, I am. But you’ve got to understand, you’re one of the lucky ones. I don’t think you get it.

Shep paces around the room. He shoots worried glances at the angry teenager in front of him.

SHEP

You’ve got a family that cares, and yeah, they can be crazy sometimes. That’s how every family is. If you leave and go somewhere new, they’ll be just as crazy. Do you get it?

You don’t want your screenplay to have any formatting mistakes. It could cost you a big sale. Now that you know 5 basic formatting mistakes of screenplays, you have a bit of a leg up. Get started on your screenplay and watch out for these formatting mistakes.

Filmmakers do not overlook formatting mistakes often. Your screenplay should be uniform with all the rest. Thanks for reading our 5 screenplay formatting mistakes! Comment below and let us know if there are any formatting mistakes we missed.