How to Properly Capitalize Words and Phrases in a Screenplay

How to Properly Capitalize Words and Phrases in a Screenplay

Properly capitalizing words and phrases is an essential aspect of screenplay formatting. Correct capitalization helps convey the hierarchy of information and ensures clarity in your script. In this guide, we’ll explore what should be capitalized in a screenplay and provide guidelines for effective capitalization.

Words and Phrases to Capitalize in a Screenplay

  1. Character Names Before Dialogue: In a screenplay, character names are always capitalized before their dialogue. This helps readers easily identify the speaker.
  2. First Time Character Introductions: When introducing a new character for the first time in a scene, capitalize their name in the action description. This draws the reader’s attention to the new character.
  3. Slug Lines: Slug lines, which indicate changes in location or time, should be in all caps. This capitalization helps signify transitions within the script.
  4. Scene Headings: Scene headings, also known as master scenes or slug lines, provide essential information about where and when a scene takes place. Always capitalize them for clarity.
  5. Transitions: Transitions like “FADE IN,” “FADE OUT,” and “CUT TO” should be capitalized in all caps. They help visualize how scenes or shots transition on screen.
  6. Sounds: Capitalize sounds in a screenplay to emphasize their importance. Not all sounds need capitalization; focus on sounds that significantly impact the scene or character reactions.
  7. Voice Overs (V.O.): Voice overs, often denoted as “V.O.,” should be capitalized to indicate that a character’s voice is heard but not seen on screen.
  8. Headlines (Magazines, Book Titles, etc.): When characters encounter written material such as headlines, magazine titles, book titles, or signs, capitalize the words in those materials.
  9. Inserts: If you want to emphasize a particular object or image with a close-up, use “INSERT” in all caps on a separate line. This helps convey the significance of the inserted element.

The Significance of Using All Caps

Capitalization in a screenplay is a visual tool that helps emphasize important information, transitions, or elements in a scene. It grabs the reader’s attention and guides them through the script effectively. However, it’s crucial to use all caps judiciously and purposefully. Overusing capitalization can make your script appear cluttered and may dilute the impact of these emphasized elements.

Next to proper capitalisation of the words, it is also important to know how to properly format dates and times in a screenplay.

Objects and Actions

Generally, objects and actions are not capitalized unless they are of significant importance to the scene. For instance, you wouldn’t capitalize “chair” when a character sits in it, but you might capitalize “knife” when it’s drawn for dramatic effect.

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Extras (Background Characters)

Yes, you capitalize extras (background characters) in a script. Every time a new character is introduced, regardless of their role (e.g., BARTENDER or WAITRESS), capitalize their name to identify them.

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