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I have found two ways of formatting a script for a play.

  1. Character names go in the middle of the page, on a separate line. Example: http://filmschoolonline.com/sample_lessons/sample_script_page.htm

  2. Character names go flush left, and then there's a tab to the dialogue. Example: http://www.thewritersguide.co.uk/stageplay.html

I believe that in both styles, the character name is given in all upper case.

What are these two styles called? What's the difference in terms of how they are used currently? How did we end up with two styles?

Question about format #2: Should the paragraphs have a hanging indent, or should the character names live alone in a column on the left, all by themselves?

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    Just judging from the URLs, #1 is a script for a film and #2 is intended for a stage play. – evilsoup Feb 12 '17 at 8:40
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Well, the first one is certainly a "screenplay", and is the accepted standard for film and television (though sometimes television scripts are differentiated with "teleplay").

The second one looks like a script for a play. I believe "stage play" is a fairly established term for contrasting the two, and that "play script" and "theatre script" are also reasonable terms to use.

I believe the reason screenplays differ from stage plays is because they developed separately. Screenplays were not originally like stage plays at all. Early films were silent, and contained mostly action, whereas plays (since most actions are difficult to see) usually place a lot more emphasis on speech.

Screenplays grew out of the unique requirements of film, and over time accumulated more features which made them more similar to stage plays. Nonetheless, subtle differences remain because the formats are different, and have subtly different requirements.

Question about format #2: Should the paragraphs have a hanging indent, or should the character names live alone in a column on the left, all by themselves?

I've actually seen both, so I'm not sure. I think the latter is more common, and generally more accepted these days. I'd suggest looking at some (recent) stage plays and seeing what they do.

  • When I have made meeting transcripts, I've gone with columns, and in practice (working in MS Word) I was working in a two-column table, where each speaker would be a new row. I guess I'll just stick with that. I don't need any stage directions. – aparente001 Feb 13 '17 at 5:55

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