How to format a screenplay professionally

We often provide feedback on screenplays that are not formatted professionally. This is a big red flag for anyone reading scripts because screenplay formatting has very specific rules, and it is not just about how it reads on the page, but it has significant implications for visual storytelling.

If you submit a wrongly formatted screenplay to anyone in the industry, you can be sure they will immediately bin it without even reading it. This is because they will think that you are not a professional writer. In fact, most of the time, if a screenplay is not formatted correctly, it means the writer is at the beginning of their career – at least as a writer for the screen – and it’s unlikely their screenplay will also be professionally structured.

The good news is formatting issues have an easy fix: you just need to use screenwriting software and it will do the formatting for you!

Which software should you use?

The industry uses Final Draft, but you don’t have to buy it. Unless you are working on a project which is in production, this would be a waste of your money. All screenwriting software is created equal because all it has to do is format your script, the rest of the features are superfluous at the writing stage! So here are a couple of free options we suggest you look into:

For Windows / Linux: Trelby

For Mac: Highland 2

Although the software does the work for you, it’s a good idea to get a good grasp of the formatting rules yourself. You can do it by reading this article.

What about story structure?

Structuring a story properly is much more difficult than formatting, but it will make your script stand out from the crowd! Here is an article listing all the screenwriting manuals you may need to learn the craft. There are many more, but these are the classics everyone in the industry has read at least once in their career.