Download screenplay format guides below
(with links to some useful software, free and paid) but first read this:

Is it important to format scripts correctly?

This is more an issue with cinema and feature length TV scripts than with other forms of TV, which tend to be less prescriptive, but the fact is that it is crucially important to use the correct format for any feature length drama script.

Why is it important?

There are a number of possible answers that go around. One is that the specific use of non-proportional courier font and the designated layout makes scripts conform closely to 1 page per minute.

Well, dialogue tends to run faster (2 pages per minute or so) while action can be much, much slower (on Cimino’s Deer Hunter there’s a party described in a couple of lines that runs for over four minutes on its own). And yet it is true that most scripts, if the balance of dialogue and action is about right, tend to work out at a page a minute.  On the other hand, many don’t!

Another, more credible, explanation is that the cinema layout we use gives a good visual balance between description and dialogue, ensuring that if there is too much of either then it shows up in a very obvious way.

The most important reason that you need to know, though, is that any professional in the industry will be very wary of a script that is not in correct format. How unfair and unjust! Perhaps. But look at it this way. There are only two reasons why a script would not be in correct format.

  1. The writer has not been around long enough to know the difference.
  2. The writer is too bolshie (or lazy) to care.

Either way, do you want to work with that writer? Speaking personally, in my entire career I have only come across one incorrectly formatted script that turned out to be worth reading. And that writer turned out to be impossible to work with… My case rests.


Cinema Screenplay Format Guide

Download free professionally formatted sample script for cinema, with extra hints and tips on layout.

PDF Reader

To read this you’ll need a pdf reader. If you don’t have one, download a free reader from Adobe – or if you prefer from Foxit.

Typical TV Script Layout

Typical layout for studio drama, with dialogue on the right and space on the left for camera breakdowns.


Good software will automatically ensure that your screenplay is correctly formatted.


Celtx is popular and permanently free (though be careful some of the links lead you to the paid version).

Paid/Free Trial

Final Draft is the industry standard, followed closely by
Scrivener is excellent value. Fewer formatting options but by far the strongest outlining and planning features. And much, much cheaper! See my review.
They all offer free trials.

See also


  1. Troy said:

    February 5, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Hi Charles…thanks for the great book! I’ve read a few now and there are so many contradictions…..but yours was the most helpful so far. Really constructive, clear and logical…and the templates are a great help!

  2. Boon said:

    May 3, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Hi Charles

    Thank you for your recommendations. Just wanted to share that Celtx, while described as permanently free above, does not appear to be so.

    When you click on the link, it leads you to Apple’s App Store, which says it is US$19.99.


    • Charles Harris said:

      May 3, 2019 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Boon

      Thank you. I’ve had a look and it seems as if it depends on which link you click. Some lead to the site which appears no longer to have a free download option visible (although the help centre still says the Basic plan is free –

      However, other options on the page seem to still offer a free download. I’m getting virus alerts from some of them, but Google seems to suggest these are false alerts triggered by a dll – as ever, take any necessary precautions.

      I’ve added a note to the page.

      Personally, I’d get Scrivener for the small one-off fee but that’s me.

      See my road test review

      Good luck and tell me how you get on.


  3. Harish said:

    April 19, 2022 at 9:28 am

    Hi Charles, Thank you for the Templates….Great help! What do you think about the screenplay writing softwares such as Final Draft? Thanks!

  4. Harish said:

    April 19, 2022 at 9:30 am

    Hi Charles, Thank for the templates… great help! What do you think about the screenplay softwares such as final draft etc? Thank you.

    • Charles Harris said:

      April 27, 2022 at 11:54 am

      Hi Harish

      Thank you. I’m delighted you like them. I’ve been on holiday, so apologies for the late reply.

      I like Final Draft. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it if you are serious about writing screenplays, as it offers a number of useful features. It is also the industry standard, so at some point you will probably need FD for collaboration. Having said that, Scrivener has many of the same features, for a lot less money, and also offers other benefits that FD doesn’t have, such as the ability to keep all your research, notes, character profiles, etc, in the same file. And you can still compile the script into a form that you can send to producers.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your writing – and if you haven’t already, do consider joining my mailing list for regular articles on writing, reading, movies, books and more. Just email me back or fill in the form on the right hand side of my website pages.

      Best wishes

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