Text Message Formatting in Screenplay Writing – A Complete Guide

Text Message Formatting in Screenplay Writing

In the era of digital communication, incorporating text messages in screenplays has become increasingly common. Understanding how to format these messages correctly is essential for modern screenwriters. This guide will explore various methods to write text messages in your script effectively.

Writing Text Messages in a Screenplay

The standard method to format a text message in a screenplay is by indicating it next to the character’s name and italicizing the dialogue.

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Three Methods to Format Text Messages in Screenplays

Action Line Text: This method involves incorporating the text message within the action lines. It works well for brief text exchanges but can be cumbersome for longer conversations.

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

Alice sits at a table, sipping her coffee. She glances at her phone.

On the phone screen: “Meet me at 8?” – Bob

Dialogue Line Text: This is a straightforward method where text messages are formatted as dialogue, with the indication (TEXT) next to the character’s name.

EXT. PARK – AFTERNOON

Amy sits on a bench, watching the birds. He pulls out his phone and types a message.

Amy (TEXT): “Heading to the park now. See you there.”

Lori (TEXT): “Great, I’ll be there in 10.”

Action Line Colon Text: This method is a blend of dialogue and action. It’s efficient for establishing ongoing text conversations without repetitive notation.

Rules for Writing Texts in a Script

  1. Clear Indication: Always make it clear that the communication is happening via text. This can be done through formatting or narrative description.
  2. Avoid Overuse: Remember, film is a visual medium. Rely more on visual storytelling rather than lengthy text message conversations, unless it’s crucial to the narrative.
  3. Consistency: Whichever method you choose, maintain consistency throughout the script. Changing formats can confuse readers and disrupt the flow.

Text messages in screenplays should be formatted clearly and concisely, enhancing the story without overshadowing the visual narrative. Whether you use them as a key plot device or a subtle narrative tool, the way you incorporate text messages can significantly impact the clarity and effectiveness of your screenplay.

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