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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Oh, Cooommmme Ooonnn!

If your screenplay has spelling errors or grammatical mistakes in it, it tells me that you didn't find someone who knows his or her stuff to proofread it for you.

But when your screenplay has Action descriptions that show up as a Character Cue and Dialogue, because you neglected to hit [TAB] in your screenwriting software enough times, it tells me that you were too damn lazy to even read the thing over yourself!

Come on now people. CHECK YOUR WORK! The producer will wait another day or two until you can make sure the script is in good shape!

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Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Man, that's bad. I'm guilty of having the occasional hear instead of here or spelling the when I want to type then, but I can tab like a mofo!

7:07 AM  
Blogger ScriptWeaver said...

I always recommend writers actually reading a hard copy before sending it out. It's amazing how many errors you find compared to just reading it from the monitor.

I also read it out loud at least once and even act out each character. (Alone with sound proof walls of course). This helps with dialogue flow and catching anything too "on the nose."

8:55 AM  
Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

Hey Joel. I'm curious, how do the scripts you read break down, in terms of percentages, into the following categories?

1. Perfect grammar and spelling.
2. Occasional grammar or spelling errors, or typos, especially on tricky words or sentence constructions.
3. Frequent typos or spelling/grammar errors.
4. So bad that it would make a linguist disintegrate like a staked vampire in Sunnydale.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

To be honest, Matt, I don't even remember them after I read them (thugh I notice it when it does happen). I'd say a very small percentage are in Category 4. Most are probabky in 2. But as I said, once I'm done with the script I forget about it.

9:49 AM  
Blogger procrastinatrix said...

Surprisingly, I see this A LOT. Dialogue slotted in action descriptions, dialogue without Character names, sluglines that run into action lines, etc. I honestly don't understand how this happens, because even onscreen, don't people re-read their work? I always figure, if they can't be bothered to write a cleanly formatted script, how can they expect me to take their script seriously?

6:37 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Exactly my point Ras. These people clearly don't even read over their script once. They finish typing up a first draft and are so excited that they've finished that they immediately send it out. No logical reason why we should take it seriously, other than the fact that we get paid to take it seriously!

6:41 PM  
Anonymous chris said...


I have to admit, stickler tho' I am, I probably fall prey to all of these. That is, I can spot 'em in other's people's work, but once in a while, they slip thru in mine. I always read a draft at some point, but sometimes on the screen, and if it prints differently, some crazy formatting, which Final Draft seems to do to me, can get thru, and yes, some homonym problems typos and grammatical errors...ARGH.

I'll put this on the table, (as Devil's Advocate): it is possible that some of us are not seeing the forest for the trees by focussing on these errors and correct formatting, etc. Joel has it right, these things are forgotten by the time the script is read to the end, especially if the story is any good. I know I busted my ass on my first few scripts, read and re-read them daily till not a speck of ink was out of place...22 screenplays and countless pitches and treatments later, I feel the fast approach of death too keenly to read a script more than once or twice with each successive draft...and there just isn't time...and I ask myself:

If I HAD taken the same time to proof that I used to WOULD there BE 22 more screenplays? I'll paraphrase the great quote on novels:

"No screenplay is ever finished, they are all...abandoned."

I may have been spending all that time because...I didn't have something else to be writing, and writing was hard back then...if I now come up against the choice between writing and proofing...well, I usually proof, but I SHOULD write...it's a numbers game, and you gots to have a lot of material.

We all need to be diligent in our work, obviously, but the typo between "you're" and "your" will never show onscreen. And probably not cause a reader to pass if the everything else is excellent...is it possible we're getting mad at errors when what we're really so peeved about is that we're reading a crappily constructed story with shallow, unfresh characters that has no raison d'etre? And errors just add insult to injury.

And because that all falls in the "nobody knows anything category" and can only be a matter of opinion, we focus on that which is denotatively right or wrong...grammar, spelling, formatting?

Average screenplay? 15,000 words? 1500 formatted elements? One or two errors is a pretty decent average...

Just write a great damn story!!!

It's like complaining about resolution or picture on your TV...I'd watch a GOOD story on an 8-inch black and white tv with a wire hangar for an antenna.

Still, they drive me NUTS...so, as Devil's Advocate...I think I gotta turn in my client and plea that the court fry him...

PS. Joel, you know you mispelled (sp?), "Come" and "on", right?

11:01 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Okay, Chris, to respond...

First of all, mmmmmm, avocado....

Now. The script I just finished that forced me to post this had that error at least 6 times! This wasn't a single minor error, it was a commonly committed and frustrating one.

That being said, of course you are right that's what's really irritating. But also, as I said, I never would mention any formatting, spelling, or grammatical errors in my coverage. They just add into all the other information that clouds my opinion.

And it isn't an either/or scenario. You can proofread a bit less than you did on your first script, spend more time writing, but still give the thing a thorough proofread once at the end!

And what I wrote would've been a misspelling of "come on" if that's what I had been trying to write. In fact, it was a proper spelling of "cooommmme ooonnn." ;-)

11:13 PM  
Blogger Al said...

"is it possible we're getting mad at errors when what we're really so peeved about is that we're reading a crappily constructed story with shallow, unfresh characters that has no raison d'etre? And errors just add insult to injury."

Great line.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it sounds like he wrote it in some other format and it didn't come out right on print out maybe? I know if I cut/paste in a script to my software it doesn't always come out 100% and needs tweaking. But the writer still should have checked for that

12:30 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

On rare occasions, people might convert to a different format and think everything went smoothly. I've done it and noticed that the script can get quite screwed up. Then again, I always check mine obsessively, so I manage to catch the errors.

I'm about to read for a contest, so we'll see how many of these I come across...

3:25 AM  

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