Do not Annoy your Reader

Probably you’ve read about it before, the entrance gate to the market is the script reader. There’s a lot of articles about how to raise up your story, how to turn it better for your reader; mainly how to avoid annoying them. That’s the old premise: be soon, don’t tell, show it, and avoid doing the director’s work. Yes, many people say it doesn’t matter, but it matters, trust in me. I’ve talked about it with a lot of cinema directors, friends of mine, and all of them hate screenplays which say what they must do. I began my career directing some short films, and often I have the opportunity to direct the screenplays which I write up, and even I knowing I’ll direct them, I always write up the scripts in the industry standard, posteriorly to do the director’s work.


I like to read up a lot of screenplays, I’d like to read more, however; it’s not always possible. Currently, because of the contacts with the professional screenwriters, rarely I read up a script full of grotesque mistakes, but I remember the ones I read. As a reader, and that’s a great point of view to help the screenwriter, I give up from the reading in the first page when I see mainly orthographic mistakes, and there’s a lot around. Take care with this! It’s your work tool, remember of that.

Last but not least – screenplay full of literary language isn’t screenplay, and also I’ve read many ones, but I give up in the first sentece. I’ve read screenplays with camera language, and this problem goes far beyond the “underestimate the director’s work”; this kind of thing bureaucratize your writing; that is, it diffults the reader’s work, because he/she cannot keep the concentration in the story, and worst, the reader can’t feel NOTHING.

CLOSE UP from the Mary’s watery eyes. Cut to TRAVELLING IN which frames John in MEDIUM SHOT. EXTREME CLOSE-UP SHOT from the bouquet of flowers on the John’s hands.


I love you.

Did you cry with the scene above? Probably not, and I’m not either. Below you may confer some tips about how to avoid annoying the reader of your script.



Don’t submit a shooting script. No scene numbers, please.

In a feature screenplay, don’t actually label Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. Three-act structure is common, but it’s internal and unmarked.

Don’t put “Revision 4.3” or other such notes on every page. Of course you’ve revised it. We can only hope you’ve revised it. How many times is beside the point.

Don’t put camera language in your screenplay.

Except for a few absolutely commonplace things, don’t abbreviate words in dialogue unless they’re saying the actual abbreviation. Okay: “Ms. Shelley has an appointment with Dr. Frankenstein.” Not okay: “I have a dr.’s appt. in the bldg across the st.”

Don’t write up things in action like that: “and then, she says”; she doesn’t say anything, she simply said – in the dialogues.

Don’t put two separate lines of dialogue consecutively from the same character with nothing in between them. Make it one dialogue block with one character heading above it.

Don’t write a parenthetical AFTER the dialogue it’s supposed to direct. A parenthetical must be followed by dialogue. Also, it’s intended for film – we need the visual before the dialogue, not after we’ve already read it. Finally, reconsider the parenthetical altogether; you probably don’t really need it.

Don’t vary the spelling of your characters’ names throughout the script (Mariam, Maryam, Miriam). If you don’t know how to spell your own character’s name, it signals that you may not know much about the rest of your story, either.

If the script title appears in description or is spoken aloud in dialogue, don’t misspell your title.

Don’t give us “the guy from page 25” or “the same setting as scene 12.” This may be our fifth script today. We have no idea what your 12th scene was, and if you did your job well, we’re not counting pages. The last thing you want is to pull us out of the story and make us go back to the beginning and count scenes to figure something out.


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