The Ultimate Screenplay Format Reference

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Action Lines and Narrative

There is a lot to be said about narrative and action that does not fall into the realm of formatting and thus will not be mentioned here. However, the Screenwriter’s Bible recommends to write lean, to describe only what we can see and hear, to use specific words and action words, show don’t tell. All this is handled in a multitude of books on screenwriting.

Screenwriting is visual storytelling. Thus, one recurrent theme is to write only what can be seen and filmed. Look for example at the related articles on the site Mystery Man on Film to get an idea how that translates into movie scripts.

Character Introductions

This issue is being dealt with on the page on characters. Here a short summary: A character introduction consists of a few words up to a few lines of description that suggests something about the character. Normally the character’s name appears for the first time as part of the character description. In that one case the name is capitalized. Following the introduction the character’s name is not capitalized except for the character cues, which are always in caps.

This site dedicates an area for script analysis - or better script dissection where we list character description taken from scripts of produced movies. Go there to read a few and see how it’s done in scripts of well known movies. Careful though, many scripts available on the internet are shooting scripts not spec scripts. When it comes to formatting your spec script, the Screenwriter’s Bible is a well accepted authority.


Sounds can be capitalized in the narrative, but don’t have to. Some writers only put important sounds in caps.


MOS stands for ‘Mit Out Sound’ and it means ‘without sound’. It allegedly traces back to German director Eric von Stroheim, who used to say things like “Ve’ll shoot dis mid out sound.”

Here an example from the Screenwriter’s Bible:

The two lovers flirt MOS in the balcony.

On the other hand, you could just write it into the narrative:

The two lover flirt in the balcony. Their words cannot be


Special Effects

The Screenwriter’s Bible advises against announcing special effects in a spec script. The movie may require them but there is no point advertising them, as they are expensive to implement.

It’s up to a production crew to comb through the script and find what actions require special effects.

That said - should you read FX, SPFX or SFX in a script this is what they mean:

FX and SPFX both mean the same - special effects.

SFX means sound effects.

Camera directions

Don’t use them. Period.

Okay, the Screenwriter’s Bible says that sometimes the POV is used for story reasons, but it doesn’t make a single case for an instance where the POV or another camera direction is indispensable for the script.

On the other hand it disturbs the flow of reading, so better don’t use them. Take it as a creative challenge for your writing to make clear what’s going on without using POVs, CLOSE UPs and all the good things that directly control the camera.

Keep in mind, that every single word you write has to be filmable and will end up on screen once the movie is made. So, you are directing the director anyway with every word of your script. Read the article ‘Write the shots’ to see how that should be done in a spec script.

Another professional way to suggest a point of view are secondary slugs.