Writing a Screenplay in Microsoft Word

There are many ‘helpful’ screenwriting programs available to help you keep your script to spec. Most of them are on the costly side, which is a difficult step for a screenwriter.

What you may not know is that many of these screenwriting programs end up working with your regular word processor on your computer. In other words, if you have Word Perfect on your system, the screenwriting software will use that for its template. If you have Microsoft Word installed, The WORD engine will be used to Power the screenwriting software.

Now that brings back the first issue… the expense of screenwriting software. Do you need to make that big purchase, or can you use your existing word processor for your scripting.

I won’t make that decision for you. But, I will offer a mini-workshop on setting up your your script using your existing word processor.

Unfortunately, I am only able to use my existing Word Processor (Microsoft Word 2002) for the tutorial, so you may have to make adjustments for your specific software. So here we go…

Script Formatting Using Microsoft Word

  1. Open up Word.
  2. Now, we are going to create and name our file.
    Go to File > Save As

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  3. Now, we are going to name the file… For this example it’s called “Blockbuster The Movie”. And we are going to save the file in a RICH TEXT FORMAT (.rtf).

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  4. Now our file is created, but we want to setup the program for screenwriting. So, what we are going to do is return to the main FILE menu and slide down to the PAGE SETUP. (Be aware that the Page Setup may be hidden when you initially access the menu. If so, click on the double arrow on the bottom of the menu to reveal it.)
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  5. The Page Setup Window will open and we will place the margins into the appropriate fields.

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    Top: 1″, Bottom: 1″,
    Left: 1.5″, Right: .5″.

  6. Now, we are going to define the different elements that appear in a screenplay. When this is done, your dialogue, description, slug lines, etc… will all appear in the right place on the page. Do this by using the Format > Styles and Formatting…

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  7. In my version of Microsoft Word, that “Styles and Formatting” link opens up a workspace Window on the right side of the screen. Form within that we window we are going to click on New Style.
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  8. After pressing that button, the “New Style” window will open up. We are not going to do all of our work on this page… Much of it will be done using windows accessed from the “Format” button on the bottom right. But, first let’s name the element we are going to create… Whether it be slug lines, dialogue, etc…

    For this first sample, I’ve chosen to use the ‘description’ field. So Under name (15.) I have written description.

    Next, we will click on the (16.) Format button.

  9. On the FORMAT button drop-down, first lets establish the font. We do this by clicking the word FONT. That will open the Font window.

    On that Window, find and select your Courier font from the Font listing.(18.)

    (19.) Make sure Regular is selected in the Font Style field

    (20.) Select 12 from the Size field.

    (21.) Click OK to return to the new style menu.

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  10. Now, we will again click on teh FORMAT button, this time selecting teh PARAGRAPH selection. It will open the Paragraph Window.   Down the page under the SPACING subsection we are going to make the LINE SPACING window read Exactly (22.). Then the At Drop Down should be set at 12 pt. (23.)   Now, select the Line and Page Breaks tab from the top of the menu. (24.)

  11. From that tab, Make sure that (25.) Keep lines together is checked than hit OK (26.)
    When that is done, the “Description” is ready. You can close out everything back to step 7 above (The New Style page).
    You will repeat the above process using different specific setting for the other fields.
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  12. To define character… Name the style (Step 8 above) Character

    Under Format > Font (From Step 9 above) make sure you check select All Caps.

    Under Format > Paragraph (Step 10) select Indent left 2.2″

    Under Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks Tab (Step 11), check Keep with next.

  13. To define dialog… Name the style (Step 8 above) Dialog

    Under Format > Font (From Step 9 above) make sure you UNCHECK select All Caps.

    Under Format > Paragraph (Step 10)

    Space before 0 points
    Select Indent left 1″
    Select Indent right 1.75″

  14. To define parenthetical… Name the style (Step 8 above) Parenthetical

    Under Format > Paragraph (Step 10)

    Space before 0 points
    Select Indent left 1.6″
    Select Indent right 2.75″

    Under Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks Tab (Step 11), check Keep with next.

  15. To define the sluglines… Name the style (Step 8 above) Slugline

    Under Format > Font (From Step 9 above) make sure you CHECK select All Caps.

    Under Format > Paragraph (Step 10)

    Select Outline Level 1 (default reads Body text)
    Space before 24 points
    Select Indent left 0″
    Select Indent right 0″

    under Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks Tab (Step 11), check Keep with next.

  16. To define the sub headers… Name the style (Step 8 above) Subhead

    Under Format > Font (From Step 9 above) make sure you CHECK select All Caps.

    Under Format > Paragraph (Step 10)

    Select Outline Level 2 (default reads Body text)
    Space before 12 points
    Select Indent left 0″
    Select Indent right 0″

    under Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks Tab (Step 11), check Keep with next.

  17. After that is done, your system is ready for Screenwriting. If your Word Processing Software leaves all your ‘styles’ you just created in a list on your right… Just write your script and apply the style to each element of your script.

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