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How To Do Script Format in Google Docs [Easy Guide]

If you have an amazing story you want to see on-screen, you can begin by creating a script. However, dedicated screenwriting software can be costly. Fortunately, you can still utilize Google Docs to write your story, although it may require some extra effort.

Here’s a quick guide on how to write a screenplay in Google Docs:

  1. Set your left margin to 1.5 inches and keep all other margins to 1 inch.
  2. Insert page numbers at the top (right-aligned), starting from the second page.
  3. Use the font “Courier New,” size 12, for your text.
  4. Change the text styles to the formatting of different script elements.
  5. Now, you’re ready to start crafting your screenplay!

While the steps above work, there are many other things that you should consider when configuring the script format in Google Docs. In the following sections, we will explain this process, providing specific formatting rules you should adhere to.

Download Our Screenplay Template in Google Docs

Script format Google Docs—Screenplay Template in Google Docs

 

If you want to streamline the process, you can utilize a convenient Google Docs template for formatting your script. To access our template, simply click the link provided below and hit the “Make a copy” button in the next tab.

Access Template

6 Steps To Do Script Format in Google Docs

The formatting rules can be rigid when it comes to writing screenplays. If these rules are not followed accurately, industry professionals will likely frown upon your work. Here’s a quick and easy step-by-step guide on how to write a script on Google Docs.

Step 1: Modify Your Page Margins

In screenwriting, it is a common practice that each page of the script roughly translates to one minute of screen time. The script’s margins are crucial in maintaining this standard and accommodating revision notes and comments from the production staff.

Here’s how to modify your page margins in Google Docs:

  1. Go to docs.google.com and open a new document.
  2. Click on “File” and select “Page setup.
Where to find the page setup options in Google Docs

 

  1. In the “Page setup” panel, ensure that your page size is set to “Letter (8.5” x 11”).
  2. Then, adjust the margins of your document as follows:
  • Top, right, and bottom: One inch
  • Left: One and a half (1.5) inches
  1. Once you’ve made the adjustments, click “OK.”
Adjusting page size and margins in Google Docs

 

  1. Alternatively, you can simply drag the “Left Indent” marker on the ruler by half an inch to the right.
The Left Indent marker in the Google Docs ruler

 

  1. If your document ruler isn’t displayed, go to the “View” menu and check the “Show ruler” option.
How to display the ruler in Google Docs

 

Related: How To Do MLA Format on Google Docs [Step-by-Step Guide]

Step 2: Add Page Numbers

Given the one-page, one-minute rule we mentioned above, we know that the page numbers of a script give a rough estimate of how long the total screen time will be. They also help your reader navigate your screenplay well. Follow these instructions to add page numbers to your script in Google Docs:

  1. Go to the “Insert” menu and select “Page numbers.” Choose the first option located in the upper-left corner.
Inserting page numbers in Google Docs

 

  1. Append a dot after your page number.
Adding a "dot" to a page number in Google Docs

 

  1. While the header section is still open, highlight the page number and change its typeface to “Courier New” from the font drop-down in the toolbar.
  2. Change its font size to 12-point.
Changing the font from Arial to Courier New

 

  1. Next, click the “Options” drop-down menu and choose “Page numbers.
Where to find the Page numbers option in the header section

 

  1. Toggle off the “Show on first page” option by unchecking it, then click “Apply.”
Not displaying page numbers on the first page

 

Related: How To Add Footnotes in Google Docs [2023 Guide]

Step 3: Set the Font Style and Size

According to industry standards, scripts should be formatted using the Courier font family with a font size of 12. To update the font in your script, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Font” drop-down, which is initially displayed as Arial by default.
  2. Select “Courier New” from the font options.
  3. Adjust the font size to 12 by using the plus and minus buttons located beside the font menu in the toolbar.
Using the Courier New font at size 12

Step 4: Script Elements to Include

There are seven important elements that you should include in your screenplay. These elements are placed on separate lines, so make sure to follow their correct formatting:

Element Format
Slugline
  • Flush to the left
  • Capitalized letters
Action
  • Flush to the left
  • Regular case
Character
  • Placed 2.2 inches from the left margin
  • Capitalized letters
Parenthetical
  • Placed 1.6 inches from the left margin
  • Under the character line
  • Regular case inside parentheses
Dialogue
  • Placed 1.5 inches from the margins
  • Block formatted under the character and parenthetical lines
Shot
  • Flush to the left
  • Capitalized letters
Transition
  • Flush to the right
  • Capitalized letters

 

It is advised to keep the use of transition lines to a minimum. In many cases, it is not necessary to explicitly state how transitions should be handled. For instance, if you are writing a scene where a character is walking down the street, you don’t need to include “CUT TO: The street.” The same applies to shot lines.

Step 5: Adding Character, Dialogue, and Parenthetical Lines

While formatting most of these elements should be straightforward, there might be some additional steps required to properly format character, dialogue, and parenthetical lines. Here’s how you can set them up in Google Docs:

  1. Place your typing cursor on your character line.
  2. Drag the “Left Indent” marker on the ruler to approximately 2.19 inches.
Dragging the Left Indent marker for the character line

 

  1. Now, place your cursor on your parenthetical line.
  2. Drag the “Left Indent” marker on the ruler to approximately 1.63 inches.
Setting the indent for parenthetical lines

 

  1. Repeat the steps for the dialogue block, but this time set the indent marker to approximately 1.50 inches.
Setting the indent for dialogue blocks to 1.5

 

Note: By convention, the indentations for the character line and parenthetical line should be set to 2.20 and 1.60 inches, respectively. However, due to the precision limitations of the Google Docs ruler, we can only approximate these values here.

Related: How To Alphabetize in Google Docs (2 Straightforward Ways)

Step 6: Use the “Styles” Feature in Google Docs

After formatting your script elements in the previous step, you can actually save them as presets in your document. This allows you to reuse the styles you have configured earlier. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Highlight any line type on your script, such as your transition line.
  2. Open the “Styles” drop-down menu in the toolbar (usually displayed as “Normal text”).
  3. Click on “Normal text” and select “Update ‘Normal text’ to match.”
Updating text styles to match in Google Docs

 

Repeat the process above for the other line types in your script. Assign one style for each line type. For example, you can assign “Heading 1” to your sluglines, “Heading 2” to action lines, and so on.

And there you go! You can now start writing your script and incorporating the various formatting styles we’ve set.

What Are the Downsides of Google Docs Script Writing?

While our guide on how to write a screenplay on Google Docs is easy, it’s important to be aware of certain limitations and restrictions when formatting your script in Google Docs. Here are a few key points to consider:

1. Difficulty in Proofreading

Regarding basic spelling and grammar checking, Google Docs provides sufficient assistance. However, for industry professionals, the formatting of your script carries more weight than mere grammatical errors, especially upon first impression.

Unfortunately, the proofreading features in Google Docs are inadequate for verifying the screenwriting format. In other words, you would need to manually review and adjust the formatting. This approach is not only impractical but also increases the likelihood of overlooking formatting mistakes.

2. Limited Creativity

As we have mentioned before, Google Docs isn’t really intended for writing screenplays. It lacks the specialized features and tools found in professional screenwriting software that could have helped you channel your creativity better.

Instead of being able to focus on developing the lines of your characters without any concerns, you may find yourself stressed out by the formatting requirements of your script to meet industry standards.

3. Compatibility Issues

When it’s time for you to transition to professional screenwriting software, you might be unable to preserve your Google Docs script format. This can disrupt your workflow and require additional time and effort to fix the formatting issues.

Final Thoughts

Setting the script format in Google Docs can be tricky, but you’ll be good to go as long as you follow our guide on how to format a screenplay in Google Docs in this article.

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