Screenwriting: Understanding Dual Dialogue or Side-By-Side Dialogue

In screenwriting terminology, dual dialogs simply mean that two characters are speaking simultaneously (or side-by-side).

The dual dialog is represented by a dual column format in the written script. This format places the simultaneously spoken dialogs side by side.

Details on Dual Dialog Writing

Dual dialog writing is actually pretty straightforward. All you need to do is simply create two parallel columns that list the Character Name, Parenthetical and Extension and Dialogue pieces together.

This simply represents the idea that two or more characters are speaking at the same time. For more than two characters you can put in an additional number of columns that is equal to the number of speaking characters.

The ordering of the columns can be up to the screenwriter’s discretion as there is no actual ordering in the scene to be played out. As a screenwriter you may want to create a logical flow of action and reaction in the columns though.

A common mistake made by amateur writers while writing a scene is that an earlier scene that has been their favorite inspires them. This only serves to distract the audience from the flow of the storyline. This small mistake may even cause rejection of a script.

How to Write Dual Dialogs

While writing the script, you will always have to make sure that the dual dialog margins are actually set to be slightly narrower than the standard Dialog margins. Once this is done, you will set the guides such that the character Name starts 2 3/4" from the left side of the document.

Next, you will have to adjust the parenthetical margins such that they are 2 1/4" away from the left hand side and 4.5" from the right hand side.

The dialog margins should be set so that they are 2" from the left hand side and 4" from the right hand side. This will be the first column for the first of the several simultaneously speaking characters.

To create a column for the second of the several simultaneously speaking characters, you will position the guides so that the second character’s name actually starts 5 3/4" from the left hand side. The parenthetical margins should be set in such a way that they are 5 1/4" from the left hand side and 1 1/4 from the right hand side.

You will then move on to fixing the dialog margins and align them so that they are placed 5" from the left hand side and 1" from the right hand side.

You will also need to make sure that there is a line break just before the name of the very first character’s name in the dual dialog.

You can also follow the same dual dialog writing guidelines with any script writing software (for example script ware). All you need to do is hit the tab key and create a character name followed by a Ctrl+Tab key combination. This should set you up for success.