Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Got an interesting e-mail from John Zussman, cowriter of two exceptional Writers on the Storm top ten scripts (TRIO and ORIGIN.) He was responding to an excerpt from the CI Format & Style Guide in the last newsletter, the gist of which was: turn off your automatic CONTINUEDS and MORES in Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter. In other words, when BILL speaks, then something else happens in description, and then Bill speaks again, we don’t need to put (CONT’D) since it’s pretty clear Bill is continuing to speak. We recommend only using mores and continueds when dialogue continues over a page break.

John discussed this with his long-time consultant Michael Hauge, writer of many excellent books on screenwriting, and Hauge disputed this advice. Hauge feels that readers get into a certain rhythm or comfort zone when reading a script, and it disrupts their rhythm if they don’t see (CONT’D) after a character’s name every time that character speaks after a pause. Hmm. So I thought about that. I forget where I originally saw that bit about turning off the mores and continueds--I think it was the CAA Spec Style Guide--but after much rumination and with all due respect to Mr. Hague, who is a world-class analyst, I say, COME ON. If we see BILL’s name, do we really need (CONT’D) to know that Bill is continuing to speak? It’s just unnecessary clutter on the page.

But you know what? At the end of the day, it truly doesn’t matter. Format, schmormat. If you’re holding the reader rapt with your storytelling, they won’t give a vole’s tushie whether you leave the mores and continueds on or not. We can nitpick format to death--and I mean heck, I write the damn CI Style Guide, so I am guilty of this--but at the end of the day, there are some people who love ellipses, some who hate them… some who skip two lines between scenes and some who skip one… none of that truly maters. Tell a great story. End of story. Er, so to speak.

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