How might a writer format a play or musical?
Included on this webpage are suggested formats for plays and musicals drawn from suggestions of distinguished dramatists, literary managers, teachers of dramatic writing, producers, professional theatres, and publishers. It is the Guild’s belief that these formats present a standard that will work well for most professional opportunities. A well formatted script can make the difference between someone reading your work or ignoring it outright.
This page shows you how to emulate the most successful script layouts so your work will be submission-ready. While not all playwriting opportunities require a specific format, it’s important to know the industry standards to ensure easy reading for anyone who gets their hands on your work. Below, you’ll find a handful of examples of the most commonly used formats for play scripts. We also provide samples of how to format your title page, as well as preparing a resume and cover letter for submission opportunities. The formats provided are guidelines, not requirements. A few additional elements to consider:
Formatting works towards two purposes: easy reading and the ability to approximate the performance time of the written story. Admittedly, not all stories or styles of writing will work within a standard format. Therefore, use your better judgment in deciding the architecture of the page.
There is an industry-standard (though some may say old-fashioned) of using the 12-point Courier font. With the proliferation of computers and word-processing programs, there are literally hundreds of fonts to choose from. Whatever your choice, we recommend that you maintain a font size of 12 points – thereby assuring some reliable approximation of performance time.
Though you wrote the story, someone has to read it before anyone sees it. Therefore, make your manuscript easy to read by employing a standard format with clearly delineated page numbers, scene citations and act citations. Headers and footers are optional.
If you’re using a software program to format your work such as Final Draft or Movie Magic, be aware that you have the ability to create your own format in these programs that can be uniquely named, saved and applied to all of your manuscripts.
Usually, between the title page and the first page of the story and/or dialogue, there is a page devoted to character break-down. What’s important to note on this page is the age, gender and name of each character. Some dramatists write brief character descriptions beside each name.
While it is cost-effective for both photocopying and mailing, realize that some institutions prefer that you don’t send double-sided documents. We recommend that you inquire about preference.
There is no right or wrong way to signify the end of a scene or act. Some writers do nothing but end the scene; others write “blackout,” “lights fade down,” “End Act 1” or some other signifier that the scene or act has concluded.
The binding margin should be 1.5 inches from the edge. All other margins (top, bottom, right) should be 1.0 inch from the edge