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Using Word Styles for Script Templates

Do you ever have to produce something like this?

Different customers demand different script layouts but most of them are pretty unnatural to type. If you use Microsoft Word, you will find that the Style tool can take a lot of the hard work out of it.

I'm going to explain how to set up the styles for the example above but when you follow the instructions, you'll see how to alter them for your precise needs.

In the example, there are five different styles, four of which been created specially for scripting:

  1. The style of the very first line is called 'Scene'. 'Scenes' are automatically numbered so that if you delete or add more later, the numbering looks after itself.
  2. The Style for the scene description is called 'Normal' and this is the Style that will already be in your computer.
  3. The lines that contain the characters' names are called 'Character'. 'Character' is bold and indented 5 centimetres.
  4. The italic lines that describe the dialogue are called 'Comment'. They are indented 4 centimetres.
  5. The dialogue itself is called 'Dialogue' and is indented 3 centimetres.

Although it doesn't show in the example, the 'Comment' and 'Dialogue' indents are from both the normal left and right page margins.

The Style names I've used seemed natural to me, but feel free to use any alternatives that you want.

In Microsoft Word, Styles affect the text between successive presses of the Enter (Return) key. Word calls these sections 'paragraphs' even though they often look nothing like paragraphs! If you can find the paragraph button

on your toolbar, click it to show up the normally invisible characters (if you can't see the button, read on, there are some instructions on finding it later). The example would now look like this:

You'll notice that I used a 'soft return'. (Control + Enter) after "do it then" to get a new line without getting a new paragraph (and unwanted new style).

You can see the style for your current paragraph by looking on the toolbar. It's the box containing 'Normal' in this group

I've shown it next to the font description and size because the three items are often configured beside each other.
Clicking the little arrow at the end of the box will show you all the Styles available at the moment.

If you can't find the Style box, try right clicking on a blank area of your toolbar. You can then turn various toolbars on and off. The Style box is part of the 'Formatting' toolbar but it may be outside the boundary of your screen because Word has decided to put all the toolbars beside each other instead of stacking them up vertically. If you click 'Customize' you make sure that the toolbars are stacked vertically so that the Style box is always visible. If you are searching for the paragraph button, you should be able to find it on the 'Standard' toolbar.

You usually change the Style just after you press Enter and want a new Style for your new paragraph. Because Styles include a 'next paragraph style' instruction, you often don't need to do this. For example, when you define 'Character' you will make the next Style 'Dialogue' and vice versa. This means that when you use the scripting Styles, you will only need to specifically set another Style when the Character/Dialogue/Character flow gets interrupted by a Comment -or any other Style that you want to have instead.
You can select a new Style from the Style box at any time and it will affect the paragraph where your cursor is at that moment.

Making a new Style
Making a new Style can seem daunting at first but it's really very quick and easy once you've got the hang of it. The step by step instructions below are rather laboured but when you've done the first you should be able to whizz through the rest in no time.

Creating the Character Style
Click Format on the toolbar, then Style… in the drop down list. You should get a form like this:

You want a new style so click New… You should get another form like this:

You want the style to be called 'Character' so change 'Style1' in the top left hand box to read 'Character'. The Style for following paragraph will eventually be 'Dialogue' but because you haven't defined 'Dialogue' yet, you'll have to leave it blank for the time being.

If you tick the Add to Template box, the new Style will always be available to use when you start a new blank document.

Now you have to define the style. Click the Format button. A drop down list appears offering Font, Paragraph, Tabs, Border, Language, Frame and Numbering. You only need to tackle Font, and Paragraph for 'Character' because everything else is the same as 'Normal'.

Click Font and choose from:


Don't change Font or Size but select Bold from the Font Style list. The character names are always in capitals, so tick All Caps in the Effects area as shown.
Click OK.
Now click Format again and select Paragraph.

Set the left indent to 5cm. You don't need to set a right indent because character names are normally short and occupy only one line.
Put in a 6pt spacing in the Before box so that each character/dialogue section stands out.
Click OK, OK, Close. (Don't click Apply because it apples the 'Character' Style to your current paragraph).

Check that the Character style is now available and that you make an existing (short!) paragraph into 'Character' by choosing it from the drop down style list.

Creating the Comment Style
Now create a 'Comment' Style following similar steps as those for 'Character'.
In the Font form, pick 'italic' for the font.
In the Paragraph form, set both left and right indents to 4 cm.
Don't put in any Spacings

Creating the Dialogue Style
Creating the Dialogue style is easiest of all. You don't need to set the font; it's just the same as 'Normal' but you need to set the left and right indents in the Paragraph form to 3cm.

Creating the Scene Style
The Scene style is hardest of all, so I saved it till last.
Start as before.
On the Font form choose 'bold' but this time increase the size to 14pt.
In the Font form Effects area, tick Small Caps.
In the Paragraph form set Spacing Before to 18pt
Go to the Numbering Form:

There are three tabs at the top and you will normally find that Bulleted is pre-selected. Click on Numbered, then click in the second square for the simple numbering (unless you think your editor will appreciate scenes identified by Roman numerals!)

Click Customize

Click Font. This gives another font form almost the same as the ones you have seen before. However this font applies only to the "Scene 1" part of the line. Choose 'Bold', 14pt, All Caps. Click OK to come back to the form above. Click in front of the number in the Number Format box and type 'SCENE '

Leave the Number position settings as shown but set the Text Position -Indent at: box to the same value as the indent you used for 'Character'

Click OK, OK, OK, Close.

Joining it all up
Now you can set Character to follow Dialogue and Vice Versa
Select 'Character' in the Style form and click 'Modify' instead of 'New'. Now find 'Dialogue' in the next paragraph box and select it before clicking OK etc.

Do the same thing for Dialogue, selecting Character for the next paragraph box.

For 'Scene' make the next paragraph 'Normal'

For 'Comment' make the next paragraph 'Dialogue'

So that's it, select 'Scene' from your Style box and start writing a script!

IMPORTANT - This article just looks at one way of formatting a script but there are many others in use. You need to check which format is right for your potential market and adapt these instructions to set up Style to create it.


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