Ten Proofreading Tips for Screenwriters

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August 15, 2011

Screenplay proofreading can be a cumbersome chore. Your eyes get tired, or you read the lines over and over until they blur. Finally, when you've gone over the text for the billionth time, you still find errors. The following are ten ways to help improve your screenplay proofreading:

  1. If you're proofreading an electronic copy, use a spell-checker. This may seem fairly obvious, but spell-checkers on most word processors are quite accurate. However, as you go through this procedure, be sure to read each entry that it picks up, and make the change manually to ensure that context and grammar are preserved.
  2. Retype the screenplay. This may be burdensome, but if you retype it from a hard copy, it will be easier to find grammar and spelling errors.
  3. Proofread the screenplay in reverse. Reading sentences backward forces your brain and eyes to see things differently. This is a great way to catch spelling errors.
  4. Use a coversheet. Take a piece of blank paper and line it up under each line. Then, read the line. This forces you to concentrate solely on the line you're looking at without being distracted by the body of the text.
  5. Let the screenplay sit in a drawer for a few weeks before proofreading. When you pull the screenplay back out, you'll be looking at it with fresh eyes.
  6. Have a friend read your screenplay out loud to you. Proofreading in this manner allows you to hear how sentences sound. It also allows you to get a feel for the structure of the sentences and overall flow of the text.
  7. Circle the punctuation marks. Go through each page of your screenplay and circle every single punctuation mark in each sentence. After this, read through the screenplay to see if the punctuation makes sense.
  8. Set a goal for how many pages you'll read each day. If you split the proofreading task into manageable portions, it will be much easier.
  9. Proofread more than once. We're human; we make mistakes. Proofreading your screenplay more than once will help you catch those errors you may have missed the first time.
  10. Rest. Never proofread for more than a couple of hours at a time without taking a 15-minute break to rest your eyes and your brain. Exercise or stretch while you rest. You'll be amazed by the results.

Screenplay proofreading is not an easy process. However, following these ten simple suggestions will help save your sanity.

About the author: Randall Davidson is the lead project manager at ProofreadingServices.Us, a proofreading company that offers online proofreading. Randall enjoys discussing writing tips and best practices with anyone and everyone.

Photo credit – Yellow Icon

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

DanikComik August 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The challenge with using spell check to proofread scripts is that we often write dialogue phonetically to mimic human speech patterns. You can’t imagine how creative one can get when it comes to curse words, half of which aren’t in the dictionary to begin.


22_Alpha August 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

#5 is great advice.


mark scholls September 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

My wife hates editing my scripts.


Rob November 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Great post. It's now bookmarked for later use.


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