Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Alli Unger

How To Use Capitalization In Traditional Screenwriting

Unlike some of the other rules of traditional screenplay formatting, the rules of capitalization are not written in stone. While each writer's unique style will influence their individual use of capitalization, there are 6 general things that you should capitalize in your screenplay.

Use Capitalization in Traditional Screenwriting

6 things to capitalize in your screenplay

  1. The first time that a character is introduced.

Script Snippet

The man reaches down and picks up the feather. His name is FORREST GUMP. He looks at the feather oddly, moves aside a box of chocolates from an old suitcase, then opens the case.

  1. Character names above their dialogue.

Script Snippet

Forrest

I could eat about a million and a half of these. My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

  1. Scene headings and slug lines.

Script Snippet

Int. - Country Doctor's Office - Greenbow, Alabama - Day (1951)
  1. Character extensions for "voice-over" and "off-screen."

Script Snippet

Forrest (v.o.)

Now, when I was a baby, Momma named me after the great Civil War hero, General Nathan Bedford Forrest...

  1. Transitions, including FADE IN, CUT TO, INTERCUT, FADE OUT.

Script Snippet

Fade in:
Ext. A Savannah Street - Day (1981)

A feather floats through the air. The falling feather.

  1. Integral sounds, visual effects, or props that need to be captured in a scene.

NOTE: Capitalization of special sounds, visual effects, and important props should be used sparingly. The most important thing is that your script remains easy to read. Be consistent with what you choose to capitalize.

Script Snippet

The ROAR of approaching planes is deafening. Forrest looks up in fear. Three planes dive down toward the jungle. They fire napalm as the jungle EXPLODES with massive fireballs.

All examples used are from the Forrest Gump screenplay, written by Eric Roth.

Of the six uses listed above, #6 ("Integral sounds, visual effects, or props that need to be captured in a scene") is by far the most disputed. Keep in mind that not every sound, visual effect, and prop needs to be capitalized. The number one priority is that your script is as easy to read as possible. Ask yourself, "Does capitalizing this word enhance the reader's experience?" If the answer to that question is a thundering "yes," then capitalize. However, if your answer is "maybe" or "no," it is best to not capitalize. Keep your use of capitalization for this scenario limited to a minimum. NO one WANTS to read AN ENTIRE SCRIPT that IS PLAGUED with CAPITALIZATION. Less is more!

There are a number of great blog posts and forum strings on this topic. Check them out here for more!: 

What are you thoughts on capitalization? Feel free to share in the comments below! 

Cheers to writing!

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