Lazy Bee Scripts
Word Processing

Using Your Word Processor
'That's not writing, that's typing.'
- Truman Capote (of Jack Kerouac's creation of On The Road
The point of this page is to warn about the pitfalls of using your Word Processor as a Typewriter.
(They may look superficially similar, but they are designed to do different things.)
  • Someone reading your script expects the formatting to be
    • Neat
    • Consistent
  • Your Word Processor can help you to achieve this
  • It can also help you to create a complete mess!
  • This guide aims to help you to be neat and consistent and to avoid the mess.
  • In summary
    • Keep things simple
    • Let the computer do the layout work for you
    • Don't try to use your wordprocessor like a typewriter
    • If you don't know how to control your computer to achieve sophisticated layout then either
      • Learn!  (Start with your Word Processor's "help" pages) or
      • Stick to very simple layouts
      Either of these approaches will enable a publisher to get your work into a presentable shape.
Layout for Titles and Headings
  • How do I know it's a heading?
    • Sometimes, the content ("Act 1") is enough to tell you!
    • Otherwise, headings use large fonts or other text decoration
      • Every scene heading (for example) uses the same font size and decoration
      • Consider using your word processor's built-in Heading styles.
  • What if I want to Centre a Heading?
    • Don't press the space bar
    • Don't press the tab key
    • Use the Word Processor's "Centre" (or "Center") function.
    • If you can't find that function, then don't try to centre the text!
  • A line of speech (in the Lazy Bee Scripts House Style) starts with the character name, then a colon, then a tab, then the speech begins.
    • That's the only tab you need in the speech!
    • Use a tab not spaces (and not a mixture of the two).
  • If you ever find yourself pressing the space key more than twice, then it's time to take a break.
    • Leave the computer and find a labelling machine
    • Create a small label reading "This is not a layout tool"
    • Stick the label on your space bar
    • Follow the advice on the label
  • If you think you need more than one tab, and don't know how you can reduce it to just needing one, then
    • Just use one tab and accept that the layout looks a little ragged
    • A publisher will sort out the indentation so it all looks neat, whereas
    • The publisher may miss the fact that you've used two tabs in some places and not in others
  • You should not need to use tabs within stage directions.
Speeches and Directions - Paragraphs and word wrapping
  • The way typists used to work was to type to the end of the line then
    • Hit the typewriter's "Return" bar/key
    • In an old-fashioned typewriter, the carriage shoots back and the page feeds forward one line: a Carriage Return and Line Feed.
  • Using a Word Processor, you don't need to do that!  More than that; you should not do it (because it will make your work worse by making it more difficult to format and edit).
    • The Word Processor performs a function called "Word Wrapping"
    • When you reach the end of a line, it automatically carries on for you on the next line.
    • You only need to put in a "return" [the Enter key] when you want to start a new paragraph.
  • That sounds fine, but what if I want the next line to be indented from the left margin? (Normal for a play!)
    • The Word Processor has a feature called "hanging indents"
    • The hanging indent automatically offsets continuation lines from the left margin.
    • Your Word Processor's manual or "help" will explain how to use hanging indents.
    • Do not try to recreate hanging intents using Returns, Tabs or spaces
    • If you can't understand the "help" (you have my sympathy!) then live without the indent; a competent publisher will fix that for you.
  • A Style is a template for a block of text, specifying
    • the font type
    • the font size
    • tab spacing
    • indentation
    • all manner of other details
  • This allows you to apply the same formatting to all paragraphs that use the same Style.
  • If you ever need to change the formatting, changing it the Style changes all instances (keeping your document consistent)
  • Styles make the editor's job easier! (Which is why I'm telling you.)
  • Find out about Styles from your Word Processor's manual or help pages.
  • If you can't get to grips with styles, then stick to the minimum of formatting.
Find and Replace: A Cautionary Note
Your Word Processor comes with a "find and replace" facility.  This is potentially very powerful, but using it blindly carries considerable risks. Think what you are trying to do (and the potential consequences) before you use it, particularly the "replace all" mode.  The late journallist Simon Hoggart told the following story at least a couple of times in print.  Since he told it differently each time, I assume it to be an urban legend...
An author finished the text of a novel, then, in the process of review, she decided to change the name of one of the protagonists from David to Gary.  This was easily executed by an automated find and replace.  However, as a result, the novel's heroine found herself contemplating the finely sculptured features of Michaelangelo's Gary.

See also
Lazy Bee Scripts House Style

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