Screenwriting: Do's and Don'ts

Creating a screenplay can be an arduous task, but writers can make it worse if they don't follow the basics of screenwriting. Here's a list of screenwriting do's and don'ts for all writers to follow to ensure that they don't make any writing mistakes.

Do's

When writing a screenplay, always ensure that the screenwriter is following standard screenwriting formats. This includes correctly indenting dialogue, centering the character name above the dialogue and introducing the location with information relevant to what a crew will need as far as props, time of day and whether or not the scene will be filmed on a sound stage.

Next, ensure that the screenplay is written grammatically correct. Nothing's worse than rampant misspellings and grammar problems. More than likely, the script won't even be read because of that.

Always have someone read the script before submitting it. Grammar and spell check isn't going to catch everything, and this will also ensure that the script flows well. A friend can point out areas that are choppy or don't make sense. Fresh eyes are always important.

Always submit a one page overview of the script with the screenplay. This will allow agents and producers to quickly scan what the screenplay is about.

Always put the name of the screenplay and the screenwriter's name centered in the middle of the front page. The submitter's name, address, phone number and email address should be right-justified in the lower right-hand corner of the page. Also, always print out the copy on clean sheets of paper. If necessary, a writer should take it to a place like Kinko's to make the copies.

Writers need to gear the script to the either Hollywood or Broadway, not both. Theater productions often require an in-depth page of character stories and back stories, but Hollywood does not. Writers should know their audience.

Finally, writers should always register their script with the Writers Guild of America and copyright their work.

Don'ts

Writers shouldn't date the script. It's unnecessary since most scripts take years to get turned into plays or films anyway. Also, avoid any fancy script on the title page. It's distracting and may just get the screenplay thrown out. Stick to normal fonts like Calibri or Times New Roman.

There's no need to put a quote from the script on the title page either. If interested, the producer, director or actor will read through the script. Teasers aren't necessary.

Also, a writer shouldn't add any colored pages or illustrations to the work. It's frivolous and won't get the screenplay anymore noticed. Don't  break up scenes with either regular or colored pages. It's not necessary as that's what the scene headers are for.

Don't pester the people to whom the screenplay was submitted. If a writer wants to follow-up with a call to ensure that the person received the script, that's fine. But, these people receive a lot of screenplays, and they cannot respond to everyone. Pestering them will only annoy them, and Hollywood and Broadway are small worlds. A writer could get blacklisted.