How to Format a Screenplay or Script

Let’s say you have some teacher who decides to get creative and wants you to write a script or adapt a Shakespeare play into a screenplay. How do you do that?

I’ll go over the formatting requirements in a moment, but scriptologist has a great overview of how to format a screenplay, Writers Store has a an annotated visual you can use to see how it all plays out, and both BBC and have nice instructional examples.

image from

In short, you’ll need the following:

  • slugline for each scene: this is a description of the setting (INT or EXT for interior or exterior), location, and time.  
  •  Action: a detailed description of what we see as the scene opens.  This is where staging and the first lines of stage direction are found.  Details and imagery are important.  When you return to the same setting later, you may not need as much description since you’ve already established what the location looks like, but you should be sure to include blocking or staging (where people are standing, where objects are if they’ve moved, etc.) who is in the scene, and so forth. 
    • Action also has 1.5″ margins.
  • Character: who is speaking should be on a fresh line and IN ALL CAPS. 
    • (On the next line you may choose to put stage direction on how a line is said in parentheses.)  Parentheticals have 3.1″ margins
    • CHARACTERS have a 3.7″ left margin.  
  • Dialogue: On the next line, write what the character says,
    • left justified with 2.5″ margins.
  • You may also intersperse action or stage direction between lines of dialogue, just make sure to go back to the 1.5″ margins so it doesn’t get confused with the dialogue.

Microsoft Office does have a template that you can use. Go to File, then New, and type “script” or “screenplay” into the search box.

Click on the screenplay template (naturally) and voila, you have a Word document already formatted with the proper margins and so forth.  Just be sure to replace all the dummy text.