How to Properly Format Dates and Times in a Screenplay

Writing dates and times in a screenplay may seem straightforward, but it’s essential to adhere to industry-standard formatting to ensure clarity and professionalism. In this guide, we’ll explore how to write dates and times in a screenplay correctly.

Formatting Dates in a Screenplay

In a screenplay, you write dates by placing them in a SUPER or Superimposed subheading within your script. This format is typically used when the date is crucial for understanding the context of the scene. Here’s an example:

INT. CAFE – DAY
SUPER: JULY 4th, 2023

This formatting allows the reader and the audience to see the date prominently on the screen, making it especially useful in scenarios involving time travel, location changes, or when specific dates are significant to the story.

Formatting Times in a Screenplay

Similarly, you can write times in a screenplay using SUPER subheadings. This format is helpful when you need to convey the precise time of day. Here’s an example:

INT. OFFICE – DAY
SUPER: TODAY

Again, this technique ensures that the audience and readers have a clear understanding of the time, which can be essential in certain storytelling situations.

Different Times of the Day

In screenwriting, you may need to indicate various times of the day without using specific clock times. Instead, you can include these indications at the end of the scene heading. Here are some examples:Copy code

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM – MORNING

These time-of-day headings are useful for conveying general lighting conditions and moods within scenes. However, it’s essential to exercise restraint when using these designations, particularly in spec scripts. Typically, “DAY” and “NIGHT” are sufficient for indicating time, and overusing specific times can clutter your script. Use them sparingly and only when they are genuinely necessary.

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When to Use Dates and Times

Dates and times should be used judiciously in your screenplay. It’s crucial not to overuse them, as they can become distracting or overwhelming. Only include dates and times when they are necessary to prevent confusion among readers and viewers.

Ask yourself if omitting a date or time would lead to confusion for the audience. If the answer is yes, then including them is justified. For example, in a script where a character can see the future and experiences visions that transport them through time, including dates or times in SUPER subheadings can help orient the audience within the timeline.

Next to proper usage of the dates and times, it is also important to know how to properly capitalize words and phrases.

Why You Should Avoid Overusing Dates and Times

While it may be tempting to use creative designations like “PART 1” or “LAST NIGHT,” especially if you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work, it’s essential to exercise restraint, especially as an unknown or amateur writer. Overusing unconventional time indicators can make your script appear less professional.

Reserve creative designations for situations where they genuinely enhance the storytelling and clarity. In most cases, sticking to standard formatting conventions like “DAY” and “NIGHT” is advisable until you establish yourself as a screenwriter.

Properly formatting dates and times in a screenplay is essential for maintaining clarity and professionalism. Use SUPER subheadings for specific dates and times when necessary, but avoid overusing them. Always consider whether including this information is vital for the audience’s understanding of the story. By following industry-standard formatting and using dates and times judiciously, you can effectively convey the temporal aspects of your screenplay.

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