Monday, March 19, 2012

Formatting and spelling in a script

I read a lot of scripts. Most of them is from aspiring screenwriters. One common opinion among these writers is that it is the story that counts, not the formatting and certainly not the spelling.

Well, after scanning through my feedback to these aspiring writers I can say nothing but “wrapping does count”.

If I get a script with unorthodox formatting, I point it out. If there is a lot of typos and grammatical errors, I point them out. If they are too many, I never get as far as focusing on the story.

It’s not that I don’t read the story; it’s just the simple fact that too many things draw their attention from the plot.

Grammar and spelling, it is just a matter of annoyance building up for each typo. It’s a feeling of neglect from the writer, like the writer didn’t care for his or her work. I know some have a hard time with their spelling and you will say that this irritation is mostly unfair, because your lack of correct spelling does not mean that you can’t tell a story. It’s true you can tell a good story, and still spell like donkey, but, unfortunately, it only means that you’ll get it hard to get your work proof read. I wish I could say to anyone dyslectic that it is okay to leave me a script with spelling errors, but it isn’t.

Then there is formatting. It is surprising how much it matters. It is not just a matter of one page - one minute, because that is after all mostly interesting when you are about to plan for shooting. It is a matter of quick read. A familiar pattern is easy to read. I know what a dialog looks like; I only read with my subconscious the name of the character talking. The headlines are just the same; they form a known pattern, which makes detailed reading unnecessary.

A script written in the writer’s own idea of formatting is hard to read. This may sound insane, but that’s the way it is. A correctly formatted script is a much quicker – and still accurate – reading than one that is not.