There are a lot of screenwriting industry standards that writers are expected to embrace. Have you ever found yourself asking “why” about some of them? Recently, I pondered the use of Courier as the industry-standard movie script font and did some research to discover why that is. Here's a little history on how Courier came to be the industry's go-to screenwriting font! Here's a hint: screenwriting hasn't changed much since the era of typewriters.
History of The Font
You’ve probably noticed that Courier is a very typewriter-esque font, and that’s actually how it got its start. Courier font was created for IBM in 1955 for a line of typewriters, and it quickly became the standard typewriter font. The font itself was never trademarked, making the font free to use in any medium.
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Over the years, different versions of Courier have come out with slight changes here or there. While most people think of Courier as a computer text editing program, it can still be seen in newspapers, magazines, books and other printed materials.
In the electronic world, Courier was used more in situations where columns of characters must be consistently aligned, for example in coding. It has also become an industry standard for screenplays to be written in 12- point Courier or a close variant such as Courier New.
Kettler was quoted about how the name was chosen, reminiscing about how the font was nearly named "Messenger." After thinking about it more, Ketter said, "A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability." Thus the font name was born!
Why All Users Abide by the Industry Standard Screenplay Font and Size for Film Scripts (Spec Script or Shooting Script)
Why do writers still use courier font in traditional screenplays? Courier is what is known as a monospaced font, meaning that every letter is given an equal amount of horizontal spacing. Most fonts you see are called proportional fonts, where the letters only take up as much space as they need; this is often considered more esthetically pleasing and easier to read.
While not the most attractive font, Courier is very predictable. Courier's monospacing makes for a more accurate read in regard to time, which we all know is essential in screenwriting. No matter the number of character names, locations, time of day, dialogue, or action lines, it is generally agreed upon that a page is about 55 lines, which equates to about a minute of screen time in post - production (as long as the top, bottom, right and left margin are formatted correctly). Monospacing makes Courier a consistent representation of the “one page equals one minute” rule. If we were to use a proportional font, the mixture of spacing would make that rule less accurate.
Can I Use Courier New, Courier Final Draft, and Other Courier Fonts Variations in Screenwriting Software?
There are variations of Courier fonts, and most are acceptable in a screenplay as long as you're using the 12-point size. Courier New, Courier Final Draft, and Courier Prime are all fixed-pitched and feature equal horizontal spacing.
Until There's a New Screenplay Structure, We'll Probably Continue to Follow These Font Rules for Studios and Production Purposes
During a script’s life, it will often change hands between many writers and undergo various rewrites. This means a bunch of people will be opening and working on that script in different screenwriting programs. Those programs may be different, but since we have an industry-standard, we’re all typing in the same exact 12-point Courier font.
Special Fonts and Characters Seen in Action, Sound, and Super Descriptions
As with all rules meant to be broken, some screenwriters have ventured from the traditional screenwriting font and worked outside of their screenwriting software to add specialty characters, font, and font sizes to make their scripts stand out. "A Quiet Place," written by John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck, uses a few different fonts and sizes to emphasize certain moments in the screenplay, but still, does so sparingly so as not to veer from the timing too much. Keep in mind that these screenwriters are well-established, and bending the rules may be more acceptable for them because their work has been proven.
So, there you have it! A fun little history about how Courier came to be the industry standard font. Now you know that it serves a consistency purpose, and we don’t just use it for its typewriter looks.
Most of the traditional screenplay standards, including the mandated and necessary use of Courier, are going to change big time once SoCreate launches its revolutionary screenwriting platform. So, if you're ready for something new, get excited.
Until then, Courier, it is. Happy writing!