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script writing vocabulary

A Glossary Of Screenwriting Terms & Filmmaking Definitions

By dan bronzite.

This comprehensive glossary is provided as a reference for novices learning the craft of screenwriting or professionals with a limited understanding of film-financing and production terminology. When you are writing a script there are certain technicalities you need to understand outside of the creative process such as script formatting and using the correct film language, and while at first learning the "rules of screenwriting" may feel like a distraction from actually writing your story and script, it won't take long for you to get into the groove, especially if you let screenplay writing software such as Movie Outline do most of the work for you.

Hero's Journey - Mythic Structure - Monomyth

Screenwriting Terms & Filmmaking Terminology

Download a FREE Demo of Script Studio to see how its powerful screenplay formatting, character development and story structuring tools can help you make a better script!

About Dan Bronzite

Dan is a produced screenwriter and award-winning filmmaker , CEO of Buckle Up Entertainment , Nuvotech and creator of Script Studio screenwriting software . His writingcredits and written numerous specs and commissioned feature scripts including screenplay adaptations of Andrea Badenoch's Driven and Irvine Welsh's gritty and darkly comic novel Filth . Dan is a contributor to Script Magazine and has also directed three award-winning short films including his most recent  All That Glitters which garnered over 50 international film festival selections and 32 awards. His supernatural horror feature Long Time Dead  for Working Title Films was released internationally through Universal and his spec horror Do or Die  sold to Qwerty Films. He is currently setting up his directorial feature debut and various US and UK feature and series projects.

Screenwriting Article by Dan Bronzite

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A Glossary of Screenwriting Terms You Should Know

Learn some screenwriting terms you may never have heard, and how to use them. .

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Writing screenplays means learning a lot of different jargon. You have to be able to communicate to the readers, directors, actors, and even give ideas to the set designers, cinematographers, and all the other pertinent crew.

To learn all this you can either do it in real-time as issues come up, or you can turn to this little glossary we made. This should be a resource that teaches you a lot of the terms and ideas found within your screenwriting software. You can keep a copy on your desk if you need a cheat sheet as well.

So let's dive into this glossary of screenwriting terms and see what we come up with.

Glossary of Screenwriting Terms

The goal here is to teach you the things you may have missed when just conventionally writing.

If you want to learn more about filmmaking terms, check out our list of 50+ camera angles, movements, and shots . If you have more terms you want to add, throw them in the comments.

You use this to draw attention to an object. You want to differentiate that this is its own shot.

BACK TO / BACK TO SCENE

If you are cutting between two different scenes, you use this to indicate you're going back to the original scene.

BACKGROUND or b.g.

Any action, characters, or settings that are secondary to the main action. Background occurs behind the action.

This is a pause in the script. It can be in dialogue or in the action of a scene. It can also be a story moment .

This is always typed in capital letters and it adds special emphasis on something you want the audience to see.

CLOSE UP (C.U.)

This shot fills the screen with the subject at hand. It frames emotions or a reaction to the action.

This is a transition. You type this after a scene if you want an instant transition from one shot to another.

DOLLY IN / DOLLY OUT

This is when you want the camera to move toward or away from a character or a scene.

This means the scene takes place in an exterior location.

FADE IN / FADE OUT

This is a smooth transition in or out from blackness. There's nothing, then you go into the story. The story ends, and you transition out of it.

FOREGROUND or f.g.

This is the main action of the story. It is closest to the camera.

FREEZE FRAME

This is when there is a still image on the screen, take from the action of the story. It gives the illusion that all action has stopped.

I/E (INT./EXT.)

this refers to action that takes place both on the interior and exterior of a place. So maybe both inside and outside a car as it moves.

A quick shot that calls attention to a specific piece of info like a phone number or tattoo pertinent to the story.

Short for interior, and says when a scene is indoors.

When you move between action and then ahead in time in the same action, where you've left certain moments behind. Used to show the passage of time like when a character packs a suitcase and you jump cut to them zipping it up and walking out with it.

This is an edit between scenes where you try to relate two different images or the same image to one another.

This is like when we go from the falling bone to the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey , or when the shot of Cary Grant pulling Eva Marie Saint up off Mount Rushmore turns into a matching shot in which he pulls her up into a bunk bed in North by Northwest.

A rapid succession of shots that show the passage of time or an assortment of different things happening all over.

This is off-screen dialogue and usually is formatted as a voiceover.

OFFSCREEN or O.S.

This is on the same line after a character's name when they speak. It means they are not on screen art the moment the words are heard.

This is when you turn the camera in a scene to transition the focus from one object or event to another. Usually, this shows these two things are related.

POINT OF VIEW or P.O.V.

This gives us how we see the scene. It might be directly through a character's eyes, or might describe how one persona sees a scene different from another.

SUPER (SUPERIMPOSE)

The effect of showing one image or words over another. Always typed in capital letters.

You would use this to denote the location if it pops up on the screen, or even to give a character's name if you want it written on the screen under their face.

VOICE OVER or V.O.

A character extension (after their name in dialogue) that indicates that the dialogue heard will be non-diegetic, or not heard within the scene. It is only heard by the audience reading or watching.

A transition where images seem to push other images off the screen. Star Wars is famous for these.

ZOOM IN / ZOOM OUT

This is the rapid transition from a wide shot to a close shot. It can mean the character is focusing on something, or just suggest to the cinematographer how the scene should be viewed.

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The Top Screenwriting Terms for Novice Screenwriters

script writing vocabulary

Knowledge is power and it's always good to know your trade terms. Below are the top screenwriting terms and their general definitions.

In regards to the more technical format terms, remember that they should be used only when necessary. Screenwriters should always avoid directing the camera within the script. Sometimes you'll need to be CLOSE ON something important in the script, or a sequence may require you to utilize CONTINUOUS within the scene heading. However, in the end, always use anything beyond location, scene heading, and dialogue sparingly.

The scene description, character movement, and sounds as described in a screenplay.

Can be used in the parenthetical or action to indicate a pause in the character’s dialogue or movement.

All CAPS the first time you meet them in the Action. A person on the screen at any moment.

CLOSE ON/ INSERT

When you want to draw a reader’s eyes or imagination to a particular object on the screen like a text message, a sled named rosebud, or a scar.

Sometimes, instead of DAY or NIGHT at the end of a SLUGLINE/Location Description, you'll see CONTINUOUS. Continuous refers to action that moves from one location to another without any interruptions in time – like a high speed chase through a mall with different stores.

Ends some scenes to provoke a reaction – you can cut to a joke, or to the opposite of what a character recently stated.

What a character says in the script. “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

DISSOLVE TO:

A transition mostly used in older films. Stylistically shows one image dissolving into another.

ESTABLISHING SHOT:

A shot from a distance telling us where we are — New York City? The Dust Bowl? The Congo?

Exterior. This scene takes place out of doors. This is mostly for a Producer to help figure out the cost of the movie.

One of the more common transitions. You FADE IN: on the left and FADE OUT: on the right of the page. You can also FADE TO: on the left — usually used for scenes that transition in longer lengths of time.

Interior. Producers will use this to tell what sets need to be made.

Intercutting or INTERCUT BETWEEN:

Used to show different scenes happening at the same time. Like a boy eavesdropping on his parents, a phone call in two different places, or the murder of all the mob bosses in town during a baptism.

INTO FRAME/ INTO VIEW:

When a character enters during a scene and you want to highlight that entrance.

JUMP CUT TO:

A cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit gives the effect of jumping forwards in time.

MATCH CUT TO:

A transition between scenes where one thing becomes another like jumping into a pool that matches to the same character diving into bed.

A numbered sequence in a story that shows one or several characters completing a series of actions. Like Rocky’s training sequences.

O.S. or O.C.

Off Screen or Off Camera. Maybe a character is yelling to another one or throwing something — it describes anything not taking place on the screen.

Parenthetical

An emotion or action put before the dialogue and under the character’s name to let the actor know how they should say the line.

Point of view. This became popular with found footage movies but generally refers to the first person advantage as seen in movies like Halloween.

After a slugline a scene describes what happens in a particular place at a particular time.

Shooting Script

This is the truly final draft used on set by the production people, actors, and director to make the movie from the screenplay.

Denotes a new scene in the screenplay.

SMASH CUT TO:

An especially sharp transition. This style of cut is usually used to convey destruction or quick emotional changes.

Spec Script/Screenplay

A screenplay not commissioned by a studio or producer. It is the idea of the writer only.

SUPER, SUPER TITLE, or TITLE

Refers to words on the screen like the scroll in Star Wars or the little titles telling you in what city or time period the script takes place.

A close-up of a person or thing. Basically, like the space has been squeezed out of the area between camera and subject.

Descriptive term for how one scene 'transitions' to another scene. Used appropriately, these can be used to convey shifts in character development and emotion

Voice Over. Like in The Shawshank Redemption , Sunset Blvd ., even the beginning of War Of The Worlds – it denotes dialogue only the audience can hear.

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Screenwriting Terms – Complete Guide To Abbreviations, Definitions & Vocabulary

script writing vocabulary

Screenplays are written in a very specific format. Unlike prose, where the author can use any mixture of font sizes and styles to convey their message, screenwriters have to use a rigid style with no variation.

The traditional screenplay style is designed to be as clear and straightforward as possible. It ensures that all the necessary information is there, but it’s not distracting or confusing.

Screenplays use industry-standard terminology and abbreviations to help organize the text and make it more readable for all involved in the production

They use a variety of terms and abbreviations to refer to specific actions on the part of the characters.

Many of the terms used in screenplays are unique to the medium, and many terms are abbreviated.

Below is a list of common abbreviations found in screenplays and their definitions.

screenwriting terms

What are screenwriting terms.

Screenwriting terms are words used in the art of screenwriting that most people don’t know what they mean.

The screenplay is the blueprint for a motion picture. It contains the major elements of the film, including dialogue, character descriptions, setting descriptions and plot.

A screenplay is similar to a stage play: it describes in detail what characters say and do in each scene. Like a stage play, it does not describe camera angles or editing. These are left to the director.

Diving into the world of screenwriting, we’re often met with a unique lexicon that can seem like a foreign language.

Terms like “beat,” “logline,” and “montage” aren’t just fancy jargon; they’re the building blocks of a screenplay’s anatomy.

We’ll decode these terms and more, giving you a clear map to navigate the intricate craft of screenwriting.

script writing vocabulary

Whether you’re a budding writer or a curious cinephile, understanding these concepts is key to appreciating the art behind the scripts of your favorite films.

Beat: Understanding The Screenwriting Pulse

When we jump into the world of screenwriting, we often come across the term Beat .

It signifies a moment in the script that emphasizes a change in character, situation, or emotion.

In essence, beats are the building blocks of a screenplay’s rhythm.

They guide the pacing of the narrative and keep the audience engaged.

Thinking of beats like a drummer’s hits helps us grasp the concept.

Each strike of the drum may represent a revelation or a shift in the character’s journey.

A beat can be as subtle as a glance or as dramatic as a showdown.

Whatever its nature, it serves to propel the story forward and add depth to the characters.

Take the poignant beats in The Godfather – each one contributes to the story’s intensity and the characters’ arcs.

They are meticulously placed to evoke specific reactions from the audience.

Filmmakers and script readers often annotate scripts with a / to indicate where a beat occurs.

This notation helps in visualizing the tempo of the film during the screenplay stage.

By mastering the concept of beats, screenwriters can craft compelling narratives that resonate with viewers.

script writing vocabulary

Each beat lays the groundwork for emotional investment and narrative drive.

Their strategic placement is crucial for:

  • Ensuring narrative flow,
  • Enhancing dramatic tension,
  • Dictating the pace of character development .

So when we analyze or create a screenplay, paying attention to beats is key to understanding its underlying tempo.

They are the subtle undercurrent that can make or break the viewer’s connection to the story.

In the craft of screenwriting, a logline is a brief summary of a film that sells the script to readers.

It concisely describes the central conflict, protagonist, and hook of the story in one or two sentences.

A compelling logline needs to be intriguing, clear, and give insight into the heart of the narrative.

It’s the spark that piques interest and makes someone want to read the full screenplay.

Loglines are vital because they’re often the first point of contact between the writer and the production companies or agents.

script writing vocabulary

They must capture the essence of the script while leaving the reader wanting more.

Crafting a perfect logline is an art form within itself, one that requires the distillation of a screenplay’s complex elements into its most engaging elements.

Here’s what we focus on:

  • Strong protagonist,
  • Clear conflict or goal,
  • Unique hook or twist,
  • Emotional tone.

Consider the logline for The Matrix – It’s not merely a description; it’s an invitation to a compelling, unique world.

The logline effortlessly amalgamates the essence of the sci-fi spectacle with its philosophical underpinnings.

Similarly, The Godfather presents a logline that encapsulates the drama and moral complexity of its narrative.

It positions the film as an offer that can’t be refused, enticing readers to jump into its operatic mafia tale.

Mastering the art of the logline is crucial for screenwriters.

It’s the first step in getting their screenplay noticed and the last chance to make a first impression.

Remember, a successful logline not only sells the script but also reflects the writer’s grasp on the core narrative, all in a single compelling sentence.

In screenwriting, the term montage taps into a powerful visual storytelling technique.

It’s a sequence of shots showing a condensed series of events, often used to convey the passage of time or a complex series of actions quickly and efficiently.

A montage can serve various purposes – to portray character development , show a journey, or highlight multiple events happening simultaneously.

Examples include the training sequences in Rocky or the whirlwind of crime and chaos in The Godfather series.

When crafting a montage in a script, we capture essential details without bogging down the narrative.

It’s about striking a balance between what we need to show and allowing the audience’s imagination to do part of the work.

Effective montages rely on visual brevity and emotional resonance.

Key components often include:

  • A series of quick, succinct shots,
  • Music that underscores the emotional tone,
  • Minimal or no dialogue.

Our ability to weave a montage into our screenplay can amplify the emotional impact or provide pivotal narrative information.

What’s more, we’re able to pack a significant punch into a tight span of screen time, keeping viewers both engaged and informed.

Understanding how to effectively employ a montage propels our screenplay’s visual narrative.

It’s a storytelling shortcut that, when executed well, can elevate the cinematic experience and resonate with audiences across the board.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=_nzQYPCYna4

Understanding The Three-act Structure

When we talk about an Act in screenwriting, we’re referring to a division within a script that denotes a different stage of the film’s narrative.

Typically, the three-act structure is the backbone of most screenplays.

Each act serves a crucial role in the story’s progression:

  • Act One – The Setup: This is where the story, characters, and the central conflict are introduced. It sets the tone and often concludes with a significant event known as the ‘Inciting Incident.’,
  • Act Two – The Confrontation: Often the longest portion of the script, this act details the protagonist’s journey and struggles. Key elements like the ‘midpoint’ and subplots are developed to enhance the complexity and stakes.
  • Act Three – The Resolution: The final act is where the climax occurs and the storylines are resolved, leading to a satisfying or thought-provoking ending.

The Importance Of Each Act

The first act sets up the audience’s expectations and provides the necessary information to engage with the narrative.

It’s where viewers form their emotional investments in the characters.

The inciting incident is particularly vital as it propels the protagonist into the narrative’s main course.

The second act is the heart of the narrative.

It raises the stakes and strengthens our connection to the characters through challenges and character development.

As the tension increases, audiences are hooked, eager to see how characters will navigate their trials.

In the third act, all the buildup finds its payoff.

The climax must deliver an emotional and narrative resolution that is both surprising and inevitable, based on the seeds planted in the previous acts.

This critical moment defines the message and lasting impact of the story.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=vwm6_GpYBHs

Act Transitions And Pacing

Transitions between acts are not arbitrary.

They are meticulously crafted to maintain pacing and ensure each act seamlessly flows into the next.

Moving from Act One to Two, the inciting incident dramatically changes the protagonist’s world, necessitating a response.

Similarly, the transition into Act Three typically follows a moment of despair or a significant breakthrough—sometimes referred to as the ‘Dark Night of the Soul.

‘ Here, the stakes are highest, and the protagonist must rally all their resources for the final confrontation.

Dialogue in screenwriting is the vehicle through which characters come alive.

It serves multiple functions – revealing their personalities, advancing the plot, and providing necessary exposition.

Effective dialogue often reflects the unique voice of each character.

Subtext is key, meaning what’s unsaid can be just as important as the words spoken.

Balancing realism with purpose, dialogue shouldn’t mimic real-life conversation with its redundancies.

Instead, it should be concise and impactful, propelling the story forward.

Crafting dialogue involves understanding the rhythms of speech and the power of silence .

Moments of quiet can punctuate conversations and add dramatic weight.

Incorporating humor correctly enhances characters and relieves tension.

It should feel organic to the situation and true to the characters involved.

Some Common Dialogue Pitfalls:

  • Over-exposition – when characters say exactly what they think or feel without subtlety,
  • On-the-nose dialogue – lacks nuance and can be too direct or obvious.

Screenwriters employ techniques like contractions and colloquialisms to make dialogue sound more natural.

The vernacular of the story’s setting influences the characters’ speech patterns.

Dialogue tags such as he said or she whispered are actually more often used in novels rather than screenplays.

Instead, the character’s name is enough, keeping the script clean and readable.

Great dialogue often conceals its true intentions or leads audiences to an aha moment later in the film.

Characters might discuss trivialities while major plot points unfold in the background, a technique known as the indirect approach .

In Casablanca , the rich dialogue does more than just tell the story – it embeds the characters in our memory with lines that resonate beyond their initial context.

Practice and study are the best ways to hone one’s skill in writing dialogue.

Analyzing the great works and finding your own voice are steps on the path to masterful dialogue.

Screenwriting Terms – Wrap Up

We’ve delved into the nuances of crafting dialogue that captivates and conveys depth without falling into common traps.

It’s clear that mastering dialogue is a key component of screenwriting success.

As we continue to refine our skills, we’ll embrace the subtleties of human speech and the storytelling power that lies within.

Let’s keep learning and practicing, because the art of screenwriting is a journey that always offers new insights.

Remember, every line we write is a step towards creating memorable characters and compelling narratives that resonate with audiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary function of dialogue in screenwriting.

Dialogue in screenwriting serves to reveal character personalities, advance the plot, and deliver necessary exposition while reflecting each character’s unique voice.

How Can Effective Dialogue Be Crafted?

Effective dialogue is created by understanding speech rhythms, utilizing the power of silence, and incorporating realism balanced with purposeful writing.

Why Is Humor Used In Dialogue?

Humor is used in dialogue to enhance character development, add levity, and relieve tension within the narrative.

What Are Some Common Pitfalls In Writing Dialogue?

Common dialogue pitfalls include excessive exposition, on-the-nose dialogue that lacks subtlety, and failing to capture how people naturally speak.

Should Dialogue Tags Be Used In Screenplays?

Dialogue tags are not commonly used in screenplays; instead, the speaker’s name is typically enough to indicate who is talking.

What Makes For Great Dialogue In Film?

Great dialogue often includes hidden intentions or sets up an “aha moment” that pays off later in the story, creating a more engaging and rewarding experience for the audience.

How Can A Screenwriter Become Better At Writing Dialogue?

A screenwriter can improve their dialogue writing through dedicated practice, studying great scripts, and continuously refining their characters’ voices.

What Is Character Development In Literature And Film: A Complete Guide

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script writing vocabulary

Matt Crawford

Related posts, what is exposition definition & examples of the writing technique, what is narrative paradigm in film & literature definitieve guide, what is a red herring – definition, tips & examples of the storytelling device, mastering free indirect speech in writing: ultimate guide, what is metanoia a journey toward spiritual transformation, ancient indian rhetoric in writing: an in-depth guide.

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APPRECIATED. Good documentation.

script writing vocabulary

Thanks, Charles.

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Screenwriting Terminology — Abbreviations, Definitions - Vocab - StudioBinder

  • Scriptwriting

Screenwriting Terms — Abbreviations, Definitions & Vocab

T here live a lot of intricacies in scripts that present challenges to even the most veterans of screenwriters. This usage of writing a script is difficult sufficiently instead the vocabulary, abbreviations, and defintions related to which job can be a bit elusive. But don’t worry, we’re going to cover a variety of screenwriting terms that every screenwriter inevitably to know. By that end, you’ll be finishing to apply a variety of screenwriting techs to your own scripting.

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Screenplay Terms press Abbreviations 

Note in screenwriting terms.

This article be separated into two sections: screenplays terms and shooting book terms. The previous includes all for who terms thou need to know if you’re planning over writing a spec book conversely you’re planning in passing the script off to an director. The latter includes all of the terms you need to know toward turn the screenplay into an actable manufacture.

With that notes out about which way, let’s jump into some screenwriting terminology!

Screenwriting Terms  •  How to Format ampere Written  •   Subscribe set YouTube

Glossary of screenwriting terms.

Advertising refers to any time one happens outside of conversation. For example: if two characters are having a conversation, then one drops their drunk, to action would read: “so-and-so drops their drink.” Screenwriting Condition – Complete Guide To Abbreviations, Definitions & Vocable

Like “action” examples is taken out the Mission: Impossible screenplay:

Script Verbal  •   Action Instances in ‘Mission: Impossible’

Screenwriting terms furthermore explanations.

A  story beat  is a struct element of a storytelling that’s meant to mark one story-pause or ampere shift in tone. Story beats are written into scenarios as “BEAT” or “A BEAT” either inner a parenthetical or outside of dialogue.

Blake Snyder’s Saver the Cat!  template shows us how to break below books into 15 narrative beats. Select out our slide essay on the 15 key story beats inches Avengers: Infinity War below:

Terms in Screenwriting • Story Punching in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’  •   Subscribe at YouTube

Screenplay terms furthermore reductions.

This character introduction example is taken from one von Paula Thomas Anderson’s best movies : There Will Subsist Blood :

Screenwriting Terms  •   Character Introduction See in ‘There Will Be Blood’

A character is ampere subject within a story. When getting a type in a screenplay , the character names are written in ALL HOOD. Some writers elect to use capitalized names with the entire script but, traditionally, this can only done the first time the character appears. 

Read the entire script for In Will Become Blood →

Script Handwriting Abbreviations

(CONT’D) the an abbreviation of “continued” and it's used to suggest that a nature is still speaking regardless of the action going on around her. Hence whenever a character is speaking and an action occurs, if no diverse character speaks before them, then their next line of dialogue should own (CONT’D) next go their name. 

This (CONT’D) example is taken coming Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird script:

Screenplay Abbreviations  •   (CONT’D) Instance in ‘Lady Bird’

Screenwriting country explained.

“Continuous” may voice like “continued” but it means something very different in screenwriting. CONTINUOUS is used at action moves from one location to another; for example internal to external, without unlimited gap in time. Part-time list of prescription abbreviations. Abbreviation. Latin. Meaning aa ana of each ad ad up to. a.c. ante cibum before meals. a.d. auris dextra right heed.

Which “CONTINUOUS” example is absorbed von the North brothers’ space-bending epic Interstellar :

Screenwriting Terms  •   CONTINUOUS Examples is ‘Interstellar’

How our  Interstellar  hand breakdown →

Glossary away Screenwriting Terminology

Dashes are used in and out of talk in suggest that someone or bit is exist interrupted before they’re finishes. Dashes can or be used style to generate flow. Like list includes many of the common abbreviations in various production documents, including the lined edit and the facing pages.

This “dash” example are taken from an icon location in Roberta Towne’s Chinatown screenplay:

Screenwriting Terms  •   Lines examples in ‘Chinatown’

Reader the Chin-town book →

Screenwriting Terms and Definitions

Interactive.

Discourse is a conversation between two or more graphic. The duration is derived from which Greek dialogos (conversation); rooted in diag (through) press logos (speech, reason). 

This video from Nerdwriter1 breaks down “what realistic film dialogue sounds like” by analyzing Noe Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories .

Screenwriting Terms  •  What Realistic Film Dialogue Sounds Like

Print abbreviations list.

Ellipses, or dot-dot-dots, are used to communicate a trailing thought in dialogue. As opposed till dashes, ellipses imply that there should be a pause front the next action instead spoken line of dialogue.

Diese example is occupied from on of Alman Hitchcock’s best movies : Psycho :

Screenwriting Terms  •   Ellipses Examples in ‘Psycho’

Script writing abbreviations.

EXT. stands for exterior; or when either shot takes place outside. Either INTERCEPT. press EXITS. is all used in a slugline.

This (exterior) example is taken from the Warrior screenplay:

Screenplay Abbreviations  •  EXT. Example from ‘Warrior’

Screenwriting language explained.

A flashback is when a story goes back in time to exposed a key moment that’s needed to explain current events. When since writing a flashback in a book, just make sure that and detour ties directly toward the plot, characters, or themes of who story.

This remembrance is taken from The Godfather: Part II when Michael reflects get on a pivotal moment in his your.

Paper Terms  •  Flashback Examples are The Godfather: Part B

INT. stands available interior; or when any shot takes position inside. Either INT. or EXT. is always used in an slugline.

This (interior) example is taken from the Warrior screenplay:

Screenplay Abbreviations  •  EXT. Example after ‘Warrior’

Screenwriting general and definitions.

AN sermon lives a long speech made by one character, usually inches front about an audience. 

Such monolog has taken von one of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies : Pulp Fiction when Jane (Samuel L. Jackson) commands the setting with a solo.

Read our  Paper Fiction  script teardown →

Screenplay Terms  •  Monologue in Pulp Non-fiction

Script terms and overview.

(MORE) is used when a character is speaking but you run out of room before the cease off the page. So whenever them write dialogue and there isn’t enough room to finish a block, sum (MORE) at one bottom of the page, and create adenine new block with the character’s name both (CONT’D). 

Parenthetical

A parenthesis is a character direction that is interwoven down dialogue. Parentheticals are oft used to communicate character emotion, for exemplar if you want to communicate shock, you may write (bewildered) before a line by dialogue. Parentheticals been also used to communicate quick, decisive actions, how as (punches wall).

Screenplay Terms and Short

In most terms, a  slugline lives a scene heading. Sluglines are used on an shot-by-shot foundational to communicate location and time of day. They can also be used as sub-headers to indicate an action, shift in outlook, plus other creative ways to write sluglines .

Here’s a simple slugline example:

Script Type Lingo  •  Slugline Example

Script writing abbrevations.

(O.S.) refers to an offscreen voice. In example, say a personality begins a scene on screen having a conversation with their spouse in the bedroom, than they moving talking during brushing their teeth in the bathroom. When the character goes offscreen, their chat must be marked with (O.S.). 

Those (O.S.) example is taken from Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story :

Read the  Marriage Historical  screenplay →

Screenwriting Terms PDF  •  (O.S.) Examples in ‘Marriage Story’

Script terms and abbreviations, script doctor.

A script doctor is somebody whoever specializes in patching above scripts. Script doctors aren’t credited as write unless it meet the 33% WGA threshold. Plenty screenwriters serve as script physician at some score in theirs careers.

Script Vocabulary Explained

Spec script.

A spec script is film-industry informal for “speculative screenplay” – who is simply an uncommissioned movie. Oftentimes, spec scripts take existing intellectual properties furthermore “revive” them with a new tale.

This video offers some insightful extremities for writing spec scripts.

Script Writing Lingo  •  Pointers for Type a Spec Script

Shooting script.

ONE shooting script is a late-stage create about adenine scriptor that’s been marked up over directors, cinematographers, et. for production. 

That see from Phrase Dancer breaks downhill the differences between shot scripts and select scripts in detail:

Script Vocabulary  •  Shooting Script vs. Specimen Script through Word Actress

Screenplay terms and abbreviations, (v.o.) .

(V.O.) refers to voiceover ; or once any character narrates over deeds. Most of and time, (V.O.) talk off theme-oriented beats closer is what’s literally happening in unlimited given moment.

This iconography (V.O.) example is taken from one of Martine Scorsese’s best movies : The Departed . ~Graphic content warning~

Read our  The Departed  script teardown →

Screenplay Abbreviations  •  Voiceover in The Departed

Script terms also abbreviations, shooting hand terms explained.

Now the we’ve reviewed some gemein screenwriting terms so writers typically encounter, let’s start over recordings script terms! Again, these terms are custom but not always practical during the Pre-Production process to detail camera your, special effects, editing choices the exist being planned.

Script Writing Terms

A crawl is when text belongs superimposed onto a moving image, and moved slowly up or down. Crawls are used at the beginning of nearly every  Star Wars show/movie.

Here’s an symbol example off a TITLE CRAWL in Gorge Lucas’s Star Warss :

Read our  Star Wars  script teardown →

Scripts Vocabulary  •  Crawl Examples in Star Wars

Script writing lingo, credits or roll credit.

Movie opening credits and tracks sequences don’t have toward shall written into the script, instead if person are, they require be prefaced with CREDITS, ROLE CREDITS: or TITLE.

Check out my video turn “what manufactures a great title sequence” below:

Reacting to Opening Credits  •  What Making a Great Title Sequence?  •   Subscribe set YouTube

Script script terms, section to:.

The term “CUT TO” belongs utilized when a director wants to cut from individual gun toward another. “CUT TO’s” are global used sparingly in comedies and dramas, but more frequently in advertising movies. 

Here’s an real of a “CUT TO” from of Beginning screenplay:

Read the  Inception  screenplay →

Screenwriting Terms PDF  •  CUT TO: Sample with ‘Inception’

Script writing words.

A DISSOLVE is a transition technique that seamlessly runs on scene into another. Resolved are arty by Welles the the 1940s.

Here’s somebody example by a dissolve from one of Orson Welles’s best movies : Citizen Kane :

Script Vocabulary  •  DISSOLVE Show in ‘Citizen Kane’

Script writing jargons, hide in / fade out.

A DISAPPEAR is a shift that lives almost exclusively secondhand toward mark the beginning and end of a script. Sometimes screenwriters use FADE TILL BLACK or FADES FROM BLACK instead of simply FADE INTO or FADE UNFASHIONABLE. Print abbreviations - Buy as a PDF or view online for free

Here’s into example away a FADE OUT from Casablanca :

Read our  Casablanca   copy teardown →

Screenwriting Language  •  FADE OUT View in ‘Casablanca’

Terms in screenwriting.

Somebody “ insert trim ” press an “insert shot” is when a specific shot (usually a close-up ) is inserted into a scene for emphasis.

Here’s an example of einem insert cut in The Renommee :

Read  The Cachet  screenplay →

Script Vocabulary  •  INSERT Examples the ‘The Prestige’

Script writing technical.

A montage is a string on shots that am cut common to create tone. Montages are often exploited to communicate a sense of scale or emotional depth. Montage are often written into shootings scripts to remind key memberships of the production about the intended final pace.

Achten this video on how Christopher Nolan rises movie montages:

Screenwriting Language • How Christopher Nolan Elevates the Movie Install  •   Subscribe on YouTube

Pov (point of view).

When we see  POV in a script, it usually means that the camera is meant at substitute for the first-person point of view are a character. However, there are circumstances although POV is used colloquially – to example a script may say “it looked bad from so-and-so’s POV.”

Both interpretations about the term are determines by circumstance. Stop out our video editorial on POV shots below: 

The POV Shot  •  And Arts of the Intrinsically Camera and ‘Point of View’ Shot  •   Subscribe on YouTube

Screenplay shortcuts list, super or superimpose.

A super be a line in one manuscript that implies text should be “superimposed” onto an shots until communicate something (usually setting). 

This “SUPER” example since The Disaster Our tells us ensure the setting of the scene is “San Francisco, July 1998.”

Screenwriting Language  •  SUPER Example in ‘The Disaster Artist’

Ultimate guide to film terms.

Now that we’ve covered most of the “screenwriting-centric terms,” let’s broaden the scope to encompass all of pictures. In this next article, we break down just concerning every film term imaginable. By and end, you’ll know your captions from your characters and your snubs from your spaghetti westerns.

Up Next: Film Term Explanation →

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20 screenwriting terms for aspiring screenwriters

By BBC Maestro Film and TV Last updated: 25 May 2023

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If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, there’s lots to get to grips with – including the lingo used, both in the industry, and when writing and formatting scripts. To help you out, we’ve put together this glossary of 20 screenwriting terms that every budding filmmaker should know.

The 180 rule is a simple rule of filmmaking which states that, in any scene with two or more actors, there’s an invisible line dividing them. The camera should always stay on one side of this line so that the spatial relationship between the characters is consistent between shots. The camera can move anywhere in the scene, as long as it stays on the same side of the line throughout.

So, if you have an actor who leaves a room on the right side of the frame in one shot, they should then enter from the left side in the next shot.  

You can, of course, break the 180 rule – this is known as ‘jumping the line’ or ‘breaking the line’ – but it’s always best to learn and understand the rules before subverting them.

In a script, a beat is a small pause or break in dialogue or action, often used to indicate a shift in tone or a character's reaction. It’s a structural element that indicates a pause or a shift in tone, and it could be anything from an action to a line of dialogue.

Beats help to move the action along in your narrative. They should be written into the screenplay as ‘BEAT’ or ‘A BEAT’.

In his BBC Maestro course, Filmmaking , Edgar Wright explains a helpful tool for getting the beats right in your screenplay:

“There’s also a really helpful tool I use known as a ‘Beat Sheet’ which is a concept whose origin derives from Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! You take the total page count of your screenplay and it roughly tells you where each beat should hit by page number. Though this is not an exact science, it can be incredibly useful when you’re trying to tighten your material and get it into a properly finished form.”

This one is quite simple – but essential. It’s the spoken words between characters in a screenplay.

Dialogue is a crucial element of TV and film, but writer and director Jed Mercurio warns against an over-reliance on it. In his BBC Maestro course, Writing Drama For Television , he says:

“You should always question the value of something being delivered in dialogue. Do not tell the audience something that they already know. Characters shouldn’t relate information to one another that the audience has already seen. Either keep the dialogue and don’t dramatise the scene or show the scene and don’t include the dialogue.”

Diegetic sound

There are two main types of sound in a film: diegetic and non-diegetic sound. As Edgar Wright explains:

“Simply put, diegetic means sound that comes from within the world of the film, while non-diegetic means to come from outside the world of the film. Almost a reality versus fiction situation.”

Diegetic sound , then, is any sound that comes from within the world of the film, such as a ringing phone or a car engine. It’s useful for establishing a sense of place, helping viewers to understand what’s happening on screen, and making the world you’ve created feel more real.

A car driving past

Establishing shot

An establishing shot sets up the scene. It lets the audience know where it’s taking place, reveals character information, and can establish a mood for what’s to come.

Exposition is a description added into your script to get across important information that needs to be told, but that isn’t necessarily action or dialogue. It’s a way of telling a story and creating a world that’s just as powerful – if not more so – than the conversations between your characters. As Jed Mercurio explains:

“Some of the best and most important storytelling is contained within the movements and actions described for your characters. So, when writing your script, you need to control the reader’s eye. You need to make the stage direction, as powerful and as important as the dialogue.”

Insert shot

An insert shot, sometimes called an ‘insert cut’ is when a shot is inserted into a scene to add emphasis. These are often close-up shots that convey a character’s emotion or reaction to something, or it could be a close-up of a particular event, such as a vehicle unleashing weaponry in a car chase scene .

This is when a single shot is broken up with a cut that makes the action seem to jump forward in time. You’ll often find them in montages, and they’re also a popular choice for YouTubers and vloggers today, where you’ll see them talking to the camera about one subject, then the next instant they’ll be in the same position but talking about something else.

It’s a stylistic choice that makes the edit visible, and so whether you choose to use jump cuts or not will depend on the effect you’re trying to achieve.

A logline is a brief summary, usually one or two sentences, that describes the central concept of a screenplay.

Parenthetical

A parenthetical is a piece of information that’s written into your script. It’s placed between your character’s name and their dialogue, and it helps to add context to how something should be said.

You don’t want to overuse parentheticals as it’s the actor’s job to interpret how the lines should be said. But there are times when they can be useful, as Jed Mercurio notes:

“I would caution against overusing parentheses. The reading of your script should be flowing and effortless. And the dialogue should convey the emotional state of the character. It should not be necessary to write (angry) or (sad) and so forth. But it is crucial if a line would otherwise be misunderstood, such as when someone is lying...”

Pilot script

A pilot episode is the first episode of a TV series. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the first episode chronologically – rather, it can come from anywhere in the series. It should showcase the show and lets networks and producers decide whether they want to commission a full series.

A pilot episode, then, needs a pilot script. As Jed Mercurio explains:

“Your first pilot script must be a story that best showcases the concept of the series. The pilot script is used to assess whether an original series is going to go into production. If your script does not showcase the series well enough, you will be asked to revise it and you may have to reconsider the pilot story entirely. This happens to many writers. I’ve been through a number of rethinks on different shows. This is okay, it is part of the process, what you are doing is optimising the script to showcase what the series promises to deliver.”

Point of view

In screenwriting, point of view (or POV) refers to the camera angle – specifically, that the camera shows us a first-person point of view from the character’s perspective.

Series bible

If you’re writing a TV show, you’ll need a series bible. This is a document that explains what your show is about, including important things like the story, style and themes. As Jed Mercurio puts it:

“The series bible is the distilled promise of the series written in a digestible form.”

It should contain your idea, the type of series you’re making, the number of episodes, and the type of series (serialised, episodic or hybrid). You’ll use it to pitch your idea, alongside your pilot script – so it’s a very important document indeed!

Shooting script

A shooting script is the version of a script that’s used during filming. It’s been reviewed and marked up by directors and cinematographers with their notes for camera fades, camera directions and other technical details, and is ready for production.

A slug line is sometimes also known as a scene heading. It’s a brief description of the location, time, and sometimes other relevant details at the beginning of a scene.

Spec script

A speculative script is a screenplay written by a screenwriter without a prior contract or commission, similar to a pilot script for TV.

A storyboard of an idea

Storyboarding

A storyboard for a film is a visual outline which depicts everything that happens, scene by scene, in a comic strip format. It makes it easy for you, as well as your cast and crew, to know what should be happening at any given stage of your film. Edgar Wright is a big fan of storyboarding. He explains:

“I’ve storyboarded every frame of every one of my films since Shaun of the Dead. And I, personally, couldn’t imagine shooting anything without them. I find it an essential part of the process that helps me to visualise the ideas in my head while also providing me a way to quickly convey to the cast and crew what I’m trying to achieve on each shooting day.”

You won’t need to write this term into any scripts, but it’s a useful thing to do as part of the screenwriting process. It’s sometimes called a read-through, and it’s simply the process of getting your cast and crew together to read your script aloud. Edgar Wright explains the benefits:

“There’s always a specific way you think a script sounds when you’re saying the lines to yourself in your head. But when you’re able to get other actors, or even just friends and family members, to read the lines out loud, you’ll make completely new discoveries about which parts of the script are succeeding and which parts might need to be readdressed.”

Three-act structure

If you’re writing a film, you’ll need to become familiar with the three-act structure. It’s a common way of structuring films, splitting the action into three parts, with important plot points happening in each to drive the story forward.

If you’re utilising any voiceovers in your script, when a character narrates over the action, you’ll need to indicate this in your script. This is usually written as V.O.

Of course, there are many more technical terms when it comes to screenwriting and filmmaking, but these are some of the essential terms you need to know when starting out. 

If you want to learn more, why not take a course from the experts? Try Jed Mercurio’s, Writing For Television, if you’re a budding TV writer, or Edgar Wright’s Filmmaking if you’re keen to make work for the big screen.

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20 Screenwriting Terms Every Writer Needs To Know

Like any other business, screenwriting has a lot of jargon that’s intimidating to the newer writer. Luckily, none of it is too technical, so today I’m going to run through a mixture of business and craft terms so that you can hold your own in a discussion about screenwriting.

💼 Business language

Feature script.

A feature script (derived from “feature-length”) is another word for a screenplay that is intended to be turned into a movie. The term comes from back in the day when theaters would show multiple movies in the same showing, all centered around the main feature, usually the longest and most prestigious of them all. A feature script tends to run between 80-130 pages.

For-hire work

The counterpoint to a spec script, for-hire work is when a screenwriter is specifically hired by a company to write a script on assignment. This is the vast majority of screenwriting work currently around in today’s movie industry. If you cultivate a reputation for writing scary scripts, a studio with a horror IP may get in contact and hire you to write a script for them.

IP (or “ intellectual property ”) is the legal owner of creative ideas, characters, or stories. The strict definition can get a bit loose, but this is the reason why no one but Marvel can make movies about some of your favorite superheroes like Iron Man or Captain America . If someone profits off another’s IP then they are liable to be legally sued for the infraction. That means that you can absolutely write an Iron Man movie, but if you profit off it then you’re going to get in trouble.

Iron Man

A pilot script is a teleplay written to be the first episode of a new TV show. The pilot is meant to function as a representative example of what the rest of the show will look like. It will introduce the show’s premise, the characters, and what a typical episode will feel like. Pilots are sometimes produced by a company before investing many more resources into making it an entire show.

Spec script

A spec script (short for “speculative script”) is a screenplay that is written by a writer with no pre-existing contract set and is based on an entirely new original intellectual property. If you are writing a script based on an original story idea, with original characters, on your own whim, then you’re writing a spec script. The dream is to sell these scripts to studios that would like to make that story.

💻 Formatting jargon

You’ve probably heard of action movies, but “action” in a script indicates any line that describes what happens on-screen (except for dialogue, which we’ll get to in a moment). Often action tells us about where a character is in a scene, what they’re doing, their behavior and demeanor, as well as any evolving elements in the setting. This is the closest a screenplay gets to traditional prose. Here’s an example of action:

script writing vocabulary

Dialogue is what a character says in a script. In a screenplay, it is formatted centrally on the page under a capitalized version of the character who speaks. Dialogue can be a great way to tell us how a character thinks and what their priorities are. A character who uses long and complicated words gives a different impression to one who uses slang. Here’s an example of dialogue in our example scene:

script writing vocabulary

Parenthetical

A parenthetical is a bracketed piece of information placed between the character name and the dialogue that helps contextualize the tone of the speech. Generally, screenwriters are wary of overusing parentheticals as it takes away the agency of the actor’s job in interpreting the lines, but they can be very helpful if the dialogue’s tone isn’t immediately clear by what’s being said. Here’s a parenthetical used in our example scene:

script writing vocabulary

Scene heading

In a screenplay, a scene heading is a technical line placed at the top of any new scene to indicate a shift in space and/or time. It usually starts with an INT or EXT (Interior or Exterior), followed by a description of the scene (e.g. Warehouse) concluded by a time of day (most often DAY or NIGHT). This is a relic of the screenplay being a technical document for production and is intended to help them get a scene ready for a shoot as quickly as possible. Here’s an example scene heading:

script writing vocabulary

🎭 Storytelling terms

Stories would be chaotic if not for structure. Some academics think that it’s impossible for a human to tell a story without an innate sense of structure guiding it. While there are many ways to structure a story, the broadest way is by splitting it into acts, an inherited method that came from theater. An act has a beginning, a middle, and an end that leads into the following acts. Movies are generally considered to have three acts whereas a 60 minute TV episode is thought to have five acts.

The dark mirror of the protagonist, the antagonist is the character that opposes the protagonist’s goal. Commonly an antagonist is a villain that believes in the opposite values as the protagonist. The antagonist is usually stronger than the protagonist, and only by undergoing the narrative journey of the story is the protagonist able to (typically) defeat them. The antagonist isn’t always a villain. Sometimes they can be a good person that opposes the protagonist, or they can be an insentient force like a tornado or earthquake.

script writing vocabulary

Characterization

Characterizations are the methods a screenwriter uses to communicate information about a character. The easiest way to do this is through dialogue as it’s direct, but often great characterization comes from how a character acts, not what they say. For example, imagine an antagonist that calmly watches the protagonist approach versus an antagonist that nervously scratches their leg and fiddles with a pen. Clearly, these are two different kinds of people. The best kind of characterization is shown in how a character chooses to act in a moment of narrative crisis.

Exposition is the process of relaying crucial information to understand the story to the audience. Some form of exposition is essential for a story to function, but too much can lead to an “exposition dump” where the writer “dumps” a lot of exposition quickly in one scene to get it over with. Too much exposition can overwhelm the audience, or it can make the story feel fake and “written” which is, ironically, a bad thing in screenwriting.

Plot is what literally happens in a story. Imagine reading the Wikipedia summary of what happens in a movie. This summary rarely tells us the emotions tied to the events, but it does accurately relate each narrative event in sequential order. The plot is often the vehicle that the protagonist drives so that they can learn an important thematic lesson.

Protagonist

Time to get into some dramatic terminology. The protagonist is the central character of the story, otherwise known as the main character. The plot of the story revolves around this protagonist, and they often are the emotional anchor for the story. When things go great for the protagonist, we should feel great, and vice versa. Generally, the protagonist will be in most of the scenes and actively drive the narrative to its conclusion.

script writing vocabulary

An act is made up of scenes. These are discreet beats within a story, usually set in one location, that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, where something fundamentally changes or progresses by its end. A scene is the basic unit by which a screenwriter advances a story. Inside a scene, a screenwriter can have characters clash, evoke amazing setpieces, or explore a thematic concern. A scene can be as long as an entire act (or longer in some extreme cases) or it can be as short as a few seconds.

While a plot is just a series of events, it turns into a story when properly embodied with a theme that is tied to the protagonist’s arc. A theme is a kind of subtextual argument that underlies the story, making the audience ask questions about larger elements of life. For example, the theme of Finding Nemo argues that helicopter parenting will stifle your children. Whether the audience agrees or disagrees with the theme, its goal is to lend the story emotional gravitas and make the reader consider greater issues.

✍️ Narrative conventions

Show, don’t tell.

At some point in your screenwriting journey, you may be told to “ show, don’t tell ”. Often beginner screenwriters will have characters outwardly state their emotions and ideas, which can feel fake. Similarly, characters can sometimes say something happened in the plot, where it would be much more interesting for us as an audience to be shown the event. It’s the difference between Rick saying “I saw Josie get shot” and actually having a scene where we see Josie getting shot. One is clearly more visceral than the other.

Human beings are very bad at seeing things at just face value. When we see an image of a castle, we don’t just think about a castle. We think about the status of those who live in a castle, the riches needed to upkeep it, the history of its inhabitants, the socio-political environment that led to it being constructed. In other words, the castle is a symbol for much more than just a castle. It is representative of more abstract ideas. A writer can make use of symbolism for dramatic or comedic effect to make mundane scenes feel much grander by evoking these subtextual representative ideas in the audience’s mind.

Text and subtext

A screenplay is just what is written on a page, right? Not really. Our brains are rarely satisfied with just reading what’s on the page. We love to read in between the lines, find the unsaid meaning, and figure out what it all means. The text is what is physically on the page, the subtext is what goes unwritten, but can still affect the story immensely. Think about a Scorsese gangster movie when an assassination is ordered. The gangsters rarely say the words “kill this man”. Instead, they leave it in the subtext, talking around the taboo rather than directly addressing it, evoking an excruciating unsaid tension in the scene.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of the world of screenwriting — or at least the words people use inside of it. It would do you some good to study each of these terms and understand why they’re important for honing your craft but also taking the next step in your creative career.

Good luck and happy writing!

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20 Screenwriting Terms Every Writer Needs To Know

Alex is a professional screenwriter who loves writing horror. He won the horror category at Austin Film Festival for his screenplay Delirium in 2019 and is currently studying for a Ph.D in English Literature with a focus on the horror genre

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How to Read a Script: Scriptwriting Terms, Phrases, and Cues Explained

Scriptwriting

Knowing how to read a script is essential when making a video or acting in a production. Understanding scriptwriting terms, phrases, and symbols will ensure your delivery is accurate. When you hire a professional script writer from Fiverr , proper formatting will be in place, so it's best to understand scripts before your big event.

This fundamental script reading guide includes a glossary of basic script terms and symbols that will ensure you fully understand what your hired Fiverr scriptwriter produces.

Why It's Important to Know How to Read a Script

Knowing how to read a script is vital so you can naturally deliver a message. Whether you're an aspiring actor or an influencer who wants to star in a series of helpful videos, knowing the right cues and scriptwriting terms will make your performance more polished and natural.

How Scripts Are Structured

Scripts are structured in the classic storytelling format of three or five acts. This structure can dictate what occurs in a 3-hour movie or a short 20-second commercial. The simplest structure contains three acts, but it can also expand to five acts.

  • Act 1 : The Hook: You get the setup and exposition here.
  • Act 2: The Confrontation: We're introduced to the conflict. The rising action and pre-climax events happen.
  • Act 3: The Resolution: This segment includes the climax of the story, falling action, and conclusion.

In these acts, special terms, phrases, and symbols help actors know what to say, do, and where to go.

Terms, Phrases, and Symbols in Scriptwriting: Explained

This cue draws attention to a person or object.

Back to Scene

This cue returns the camera to the previous scene when cutting between two locations.

B.G. or Background

This refers to any character, setting, or action behind the main action.

A pause in dialogue or action.

Always in caps, this cue emphasizes something the author wants the audience to see.

Close Up / (C.U.)

Instructs the camera to fill the shot with a particular subject.

Cue to transition to another shot.

Dolly In / Dolly Out

Instructs the camera to move toward (in) or away (out) from a person or scene.

Indicates that the scene is happening in an exterior or interior place.

Fade In / Fade Out

Describes a transition to or from total black.

Foreground / F.G.

This term refers to the story's main action.

Freeze Frame

Whenever motion suddenly ceases and freezes an image in time.

I/E (INT. / EXT.)

Indicates an action that happens in the exterior and interior and exterior of a place.

It is used whenever there is a quick shot at essential details of the story.

A shot that captures the subject doing one action and then completing the same action in the future. It indicates the passage of time.

Directs when images from two scenes relate to each other even though they are different.

A series of shots that show the passage of time, such as a training montage in Karate Kid.

An offscreen narrator speaks over the scene.

Offscreen / O.S.

Describes when a character speaks but is not specifically on camera at that moment.

Instructs the camera to go from one object or event to another.

Point of View / P.O.V.

Used when a scene is shown through a character's eyes.

SUPER / SUPERIMPOSE

Always indicated in caps, SUPER places an image or words over another.

Voice Over / V.O.

Describes when the dialogue is only heard by the audience but not the characters in the scene.

A screen transition that makes the image appear to be pushed off the screen.

Zoom In / Zoom Out

When a shot rapidly goes from a close to a wide shot or vice versa.

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Industrial Scripts®

Scriptwriting 101: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Script

So, scriptwriting it is…

Delving in for the first time can be a little bruising, from the prescriptive formatting to the all important question: how do I tell this story?

scriptwriting misery

From idea to planning to page to full-length script, there are mountains to climb at every stage…

The Scriptwriting Idea:

At first glance, this may seem like the easiest part of scriptwriting. The beautiful seed motivating you to start writing in the first place. However, before pen hits paper or finger hits key, there are important considerations to make.

scriptwriting 101 - pen to paper

First, can you pitch it?

Not necessarily in a room, at a person, but more generally: how concisely can you get your idea across?

This is important for two key reasons:

  • The clearer the idea, the better it will translate to the page.

If explaining your idea on paper or to a friend takes you down multiple conceptual cul-de-sacs and has you constantly backtracking to clarify key details, the likelihood is the idea isn’t ‘ready’ yet.

  • Down the line, that pitch, that logline (a pithy sentence capturing the story) or treatment (a few pages outlining story, character and tone), might be the difference between getting your script read and getting nothing.

This is why so much stock is placed in ‘high-concept’ ideas (i.e. stories in which the draw is the premise, rather than character, execution, theme , tone and so on.) It’s the difference between STAR WARS and PATERSON).

Essentially, it’s far easier to break down a high-concept idea than it is a character piece .

This isn’t to say that your rumination on the complexities of life as an out-of-work furniture salesman needs shelving, just that it becomes all the more important to nail down the specifics of the idea ahead of time.

Know Your Story:

There’s that ubiquitous quote that’s often attributed to Mark Twain:

Write what you know.

But it’s often taken a little  too  literally, confining writers to their own experiences and potentially hampering imagination. It’s perhaps better to look at it the other way around: know your story .

You can be as sure as anything about that core premise. About the top-level bureaucrat who discovers an underhand government scheme to launder money through state-run daycares.

However, if you’re hazy on:

  • The way she speaks
  • Where she’s come from
  • Her backstory before the film starts
  • Why she does what she does
  • Whether people like her
  • Whether she’s lonely
  • What her innermost turmoil is
  • How the world works
  • What type of government it is
  • Why they chose daycares
  • What the side effects of this madcap scheme might be…

…even if these things are never directly stated… that blank sheet of paper might as well be a brick wall.

Know your story . Know your world inside and out, even the extraneous details you think no-one will care about, and writing it becomes ten times easier.

Tailoring the Scriptwriting Idea:

So you know your world; you know your characters; you know your story. This is where we hit the broader considerations:

  • Who’s this story for?
  • What’s it trying to say?
  • What’s the best way of telling it?

Who’s it for?

It’s easy to dismiss the first of these as sliding on that cold, intellectually-inhibiting ‘marketing hat’, but there’s more to it than that.

It’s about tone and execution.

Take a simple premise: A law enforcement recruit faces internal prejudice as she takes on the first make-or-break case of her career.

That sentence applies just as well to ZOOTOPIA as it does SICARIO.

scriptwriting sicario

It’s an exaggerated example, but the point is that the same base story can be told a million different ways for a million different people , and if you don’t decide which you’re going for, your script is doomed to meander aimlessly.

Plus, actually putting that marketing hat on for a moment, it’s essential to know your audience.

Is your film about once-successful businessmen struggling to come to terms with middle-age and the rise of younger, more determined competition likely to appeal to teenagers? Perhaps not, so that extended gross-out comedy scene in the romantic subplot that could alienate an older viewer is probably worth leaving out.

Again, an exaggeration, but it illustrates the point: deciding who we’re aiming at affects the course of the story itself.

As Robert McKee puts it:

“You must shape your story in a way that both expresses your vision and satisfies the audience’s desires.”

…which you can’t do if you don’t know that audience in the first place.

And, speaking of vision…

What’s It Trying To Say?

Perhaps your story about a single mother struggling to look after her ill daughter seeks to examine the cold, unflinching reality of that situation.

Perhaps it aims to introduce some complex themes in a more colourful, accessible, humorous way.

Maybe it takes on a political slant, casting her struggle within the structure of a particular place or period to highlight some societal injustice.

Maybe it’s more broadly funny, playing on an emotionally bleak situation to foster some pitch-black comedy.

In Conversation With... Brad Bird | TIFF 2018

Choosing Your Angle:

We can’t really do all the above in one script, and trying to do so gives us a nebulous mess.

This illustrates the importance of choosing an ‘angle’ from which to tell the story. The same scene can play wildly different depending on which you choose.

Continuing with the single mother example above, the angle from which we tell the story determines whether a scene in which she, say, attends a job interview:

  • focuses on her struggling through it, exhausted by her parental duties.
  • casts the interviewer as a comedically pompous idiot, who thinks they’re one-upping her with difficult questions that actually make next to no sense.
  • has her turned down despite her clear skill because of her family situation and the time it takes up.
  • has her come up with some underhand plan to con her way into the job.

The core ‘event’ of the scene itself may be identical – she goes up for a job, she doesn’t get it – but the way in which we approach it is hugely formed by the overall intention of the story.

What’s the Best Way of Telling It?

This is a little more concrete. This is where we get to the importance of structure in scriptwriting.

18-Minute Analysis By Christopher Nolan On Story & Construction Of Memento

On a broad scale, this involves adhering to the oft-touted three act structure, in which, simply put, we have:

  • A first act setting the scene, establishing the protagonist and main character and concluding with an ‘inciting incident’, a major event that kicks the story into gear.
  • A second act in which our protagonist faces challenges in pursuit of their central goal. They may come close, only to fail and hit their ‘lowest point’.
  • A third act in which the story reaches its climax as the protagonist faces their final challenge and brings about a resolution to the events of the narrative.

But it has narrower implications too. Slapping a three or five-act structure onto your story isn’t enough – the moment to moment structure  has  to serve the overall narrative and its characters.

So, MEMENTO is structured backwards to induct the audience into Leonard’s unique perspective, a perspective in which he can never remember what just happened to him.

But structuring, say, STAR WARS backwards would be an ill-advised gimmick, because it doesn’t serve the story or the characters in it.

Opening STAR WARS with the image of a star destroyer bearing down on a rebel ship before we get into Luke’s story, however, is a good structural move, serving the overall story by ensuring we have our overarching conflict (and some solid world-building) in place before we chuck the protagonist into it.

The structure has to serve the story, not the other way around.

Writing your Scriptwriting Idea:

These decisions made, it’s time to put ink on paper. It’s important to remember to:

As Alfred Hitchcock puts it:

“A lot of writers think they’re filling the page with words, but they’re filling the screen with images.”

It may seem obvious, but it’s the key thing to remember in scriptwriting: you’re writing prospectively. The stack of pages you have when you’re done is not the finished product.

Gone Girl — Don't Underestimate the Screenwriter

This has some pretty big implications for the act of scriptwriting itself, perhaps the most obvious being that whatever is on the page actually needs to translate audio-visually.

There’s always a temptation to let scriptwriting slide into a more novelistic style, whereby characters’ thoughts and backstories are mentioned offhand in description.

And, to be fair, there isn’t a blanket ban on that.

Screenwriters like Shane Black and Paul Schrader like to use little omniscient details to enhance the readers experience of the script. A script is, after all, always read before it’s seen.

But there’s a fine line to walk here. Telling us in description that your protagonist has a dark past and doesn’t suffer fools gladly isn’t enough.

In fact it’s dead text if that past doesn’t come back to haunt them and there aren’t actual fools to not suffer.

The next trap is to respond by placing that information in dialogue, and this is where we come to the most ubiquitous of screenwriting mantras:

Show, don’t tell.

In scriptwriting, we can’t rely on characters’ stated thoughts and feelings. Telling us someone is angry is pretty much useless. Having them passive-aggressively lash out at a loved one or trash an RV, on the other hand – that gets the message across.

Be Concise:

The screenplays that work best tend to be those that are able to convey a lot with a little, those able to separate the essential from the extraneous.

But when we have such great, long scenes like the openings of THE SOCIAL NETWORK or INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS , it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that drawing things out can heighten their effect.

The Social Network - Designing Dialogue

That’s confusing concision with brevity.

Those scenes may be long, but every detail has purpose. Each line moves the scene forward.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to writing a scene is to come in late and get out early.

There’s a reason THE SOCIAL NETWORK opens mid-conversation rather than with Mark and Erica sitting down for their drink.

There’s a reason we conclude the opening of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS with Landa bidding farewell to Shoshanna, rather than seeing the aftermath of the gunfire in the farmhouse and hearing his next orders to his men.

These details would do nothing for the story. As William Goldman puts it:

“I never enter scenes until the last possible moment… and as soon as it’s done I get the hell out of there.”

Be Vigilant:

If there’s anything more daunting than looking at a blank page, it’s looking at a hundred, so it can help to set up a routine to keep you’re scriptwriting going.

For some it’s easiest to set aside a certain amount of time each day, an hour in which to focus purely on scriptwriting.

For those with a little more time to spare, it can prove more effective to set yourself a more specific target, be it completing a scene each day or even churning out a certain number of pages every week.

The specific approach doesn’t matter. What’s important is ensuring it becomes a consistent habit.

Get Feedback and Rewrite… A Lot

As Terry Pratchett said:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

And likelihood is, it won’t be great, but that’s OK. That’s where everyone else comes in.

Show the script to friends, family, other writers, or even get a professional opinion.

A script consultant can help polish your draft and highlight strengths and weaknesses with suggestions on how to correct them. Or tell you if an idea is worth pursuing or giving up.

  • What did you think of this article? Share it , Like it , give it a rating, and let us know you though in the comments box further down…
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Formatting a Screenplay How to Put Your Story Into Screenplay Format Featured

  • Scriptwriting

How to Put Your Story Into Screenplay Format

  • Formatting a Screenplay
  • Screenplay Font
  • Scene Headings
  • Action / Description
  • Action Breaks
  • Character Cues
  • Transitions
  • TV Script Format 101
  • How to Use O.S. in a Script
  • How to Use CONT’D in a Script
  • FREE Movie Scripts: StudioBinder Screenwriting Library
  • Write Your Script for Free

A lright — you’ve got it. The screenplay idea that will change the world, break box office records, and win you every single Oscar. Only… you don’t quite understand how to format a screenplay. Do you even really need screenplay format?

Our answer? A resounding “Yes!” Screenplay format is necessary if you want anyone to take your magnum opus seriously, but more importantly? It’s necessary if you want your script to become an actual finished film.

  • Action Lines
  • Parentheticals
  • Screenplay Transitions

How to Format a Screenplay

SCREENPLAY DEFINITION

What is a script.

A movie script or screenplay is the blueprint for any feature film, TV show or video game. Scripts includes characters actions, dialogue and movement as well as stage direction. Movie script format has a unique set of industry standard rules, which are slightly different than the script writing format used in a shooting script.  A shooting script is a more precisely formatted version of the script, used in Pre-Production and Production to turn the screenplay into a film. This version can include elements like camera directions, music cues or transitions.

Script Writing Format:

  • Screenplays are typically 90-110 pages in length
  • Format helps determine run time, schedule & budget

Why screenplay format?

The importance of movie script format.

It’s not just stylistic and the "rules" are not arbitrary. Industry standard script format has many functions and benefits through the filmmaking process. A draft in proper screenwriting format denotes professionalism, otherwise it appears amateurish and would likely get tossed before the end of page 1.

Proper film script format also plays a large part in the script breakdown process , one of the most important steps in turning a screenplay into an actual film. Film budget planning and crafting a shooting schedule are both informed by screenwriting format.

In this screenplay template, you can see all the major elements and their positioning on the page.

Formatting a Screenplay - Screenplay Format - Sluglines - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Screenplay Template &  Sample Script Format

Rather than replicate these movie script format rules manually, most writers choose a dedicated script writing software like StudioBinder. This removes all the guesswork and lets the writer focus on what's most important — the story you're trying to tell.

StudioBinder's Free Screenwriting Software  •   Write Your Script Now

Proper screenplay format will make this process immensely easier. Using these elements correctly is essential to proper script writing format. This is true for everything from short film scripts to million-dollar blockbusters.

For more research to see how professional screenwriters handle screenwriting format, you can read and download over 250+ screenplays in StudioBinder's script library . Now, let's get to specific elements found in screenwriting format.

Related Posts

  • Screenwriting Terms and Abbreviations →
  • Download and Read 250+ Scripts in our Database →
  • Write Your Script Now For Free Using StudioBinder →

Screenplay Formatting Sluglines

1. sluglines.

Sluglines (also known as scene headings) tell the reader where the action is happening. It’s a location, followed by a time, and looks something like this. 

Formatting a Screenplay - Screenplay Format - Sluglines - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Screenplay Example  •   Sluglines in Sample Script Format

In this screenplay example, you'll see that Scene 1 starts in Mort's Kitchen but what does INT mean in a script? When it comes to sluglines, you first have to establish whether the scene takes place inside (INT.) or outside (EXT.)

Then add the location of the scene, followed by the time of day (Day, Night, Morning, Evening, etc.).

When a scene directly continues from the previous scene, mark it “continuous” in the time slot.  If it's a couple minutes later, feel free to use "moments later" in your slugline. 

Sometimes you’ll have a scene that takes place in both an interior and an exterior. Most of the time, this will be in a moving vehicle of some kind. In those cases, start your slugline with “INT./EXT.”

If you’re using screenwriting software, it will format it correctly for you, but if you’re doing it yourself, be sure to put the entire slugline in ALL CAPS. 

Click below to read the full screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums  where you can see how sluglines work in a script.

The Royal Tenenbaums Script - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Script Example  •   Download The Royal Tenenbaums

Sluglines are important because they are how your assistant directors and line producers will plan out how things get shot. 

The difference between one scene being night and the next being day is important to continuity for hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments. 

That's why this is one of the most essential elements in movie script format — it tells you when and where a scene is taking place in the grand scheme of the script. Knowing the time of day and where the scene takes place affects nearly every department in a major way.

Next up, we'll talk about how to write actions in a script.

  • The Importance of Setting in a Story →
  • Tips for Writing a Great Scene in a Screenplay →
  • Best Practices for Writing Sluglines and Subheaders →

FORMATTING A SCREENPLAY & Action

2. action lines.

Your action lines go right beneath the slugline. Proper screenplay format dictates that they always be written in the present tense and as visually descriptive as possible.

Here's a script format example of action lines in a screenplay. Note that the actions are written as "just the facts" in a clear and readable way.

Formatting a Screenplay - Screenplay Format - Action Lines - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Script Template  •   How to format screenplay action lines

Specifically, action lines tell the reader what they will see and hear in the finished film other than dialogue. And don't take the "action" part too literally — this element covers everything, including fight scenes. In this video, watch as we demonstrate how to write a fight scene like John Wick in 5 minutes. 

Screenplay Example  •  How to Write a Fight Scene  •   Subscribe on YouTube

When it comes to screenplay format, clarity is king — remember, a script is a document to be turned into a movie, not really read on its own.

Department heads will take things literally and, oftentimes, without question. So if you write something ridiculous in the description, they'll take it upon themselves to figure out how to make it real — that's their job. 

Make sure you're deliberate and precise with your action lines. Find the balance between letting a director direct a scene, and giving the Propmaster enough information to get exactly what you want.

This is especially true if you're trying something as chaotic as  writing a fight scene  or  writing a car chase , where every detail has to be planned out. The more complicated the production, the more important it is for you to follow proper script format. This type of work is why screenwriting format was developed the way it was. 

There are two hard and fast rules for capitalization in screenplay format. Always capitalize a character's name the first time they appear in the action/description, and always capitalize screenplay transitions. 

Beyond that, you can also capitalize important  props ,  sound design , and  camera movements .

Anything you want to use the movie script format to call out things important enough to merit the attention of those doing the script breakdown.

Just don't go overboard with it. There's nothing more annoying and CONFUSING then when someone RANDOMLY capitalizes EVERYTHING ON THE page. 

  • How to Write a Fight Scene →
  • Tips for Writing a Thrilling Car Chase →
  • Writing and Shooting Action Like Kingsman →

formatting script elements

3. character cues.

After the action/description, when a character speaks, we start with their name. You center and capitalize a character ID and put dialogue underneath. Your character ID need not be your entire character’s name. It could be a first name, a last name, or an alias.

Whatever best identifies the character as that character. And stay consistent — if a character is identified as "McCloud," he stays McCloud, even if we eventually learn that his first name is "Jack."

The only exception to this rule is if your character goes in disguise, especially if they fake a voice whilst disguised.

For example, this person would be "Bruce Wayne."

Screenwriting Format - Bruce Wayne - StudioBinder

Screenwriting Format  •  Dialogue from Bruce Wayne

While this person would be "Batman."

Screenwriting Format - Batman - StudioBinder

Screenwriting Format  •  Dialogue from Batman

Even though they're technically the same person in a different costume.

If you find that to be too confusing, another method is to use a slash. "Bruce Wayne" becomes "Bruce Wayne/Batman" whenever he's Batman, and just regular Bruce when he's not.

  • What is a Character Study →
  • Definition & Types of Character Arcs →
  • Various Character Archetypes & How They Work →

4. Dialogue

Dialogue is straight-forward. At least in terms of formatting. Writing good dialogue is a topic all its own.

Here's how dialogue looks in actual screenplay format. The margins on either side of the dialogue keep it restricted to the middle of the page. This allows for extra white space on the page for notes.

Notice the sample screenplay below from Inglourious Basterds to see how to format dialogue in a script. Follow the image link to read the entire opening sequence, including the moments that never made it into the final film.

Formatting a Screenplay - Screenplay Format - The Royal Tenenbaums - Dialogue - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Inglourious Basterds Script Example  •   How to format dialogue in a screenplay

When writing dialogue, the idea is to let the characters speak for themselves. Always front and center, of course, is the reality that you, the writer, are shaping those characters.

Therefore, by using software that takes care of screenplay formatting automatically, you can give your attention to the characters and their lines.

  • Pro-Tips for Writing Better Dialogue →
  • How to Approach Writing 'Realistic' Dialogue →
  • Ways Writers Can Use Subtext in a Screenplay →

formatting a screenplay With Extensions

5. extensions.

Extensions go next to a character name in parentheses and tell us how the dialogue is heard by the audience. Most screenwriting software will provide the standard screenplay format extensions once you start typing the parenthetical.

CONTINUED (CONT'D)

You'll also occasionally used  (CONT'D) next to the character's name to indicate the continuation of their lines after they're "interrupted" by some action/description. Consider this moment from The Royal Tenenbaums , one of Wes Anderson's best movies .  In this scene, Royal's dialogue is broken up by Etheline's action so we apply a (CONT'D) extension next to Royal's name.

Formatting a Screenplay Royal Tenenbaums Example StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Script Example  •   Screenwriting Format Extensions

Voice over (v.o.).

Voice over is when a character is speaking over the action, but isn’t heard by the other characters in the scene. Usually narration, but can also be a character's internal dialogue . Learn more about how to write voice over in a montage  using proper script writing format.

OFF SCREEN (O.S.)

When a character is speaking and is heard by other characters, but can't be seen by the audience or other characters. Just write (O.S.) next to the character's name. "Off camera" written as (O.C.) is also acceptable.

Examples of extensions include:

  • Someone making an announcement over a loud speaker
  • A character making a dramatic surprise entrance
  • A disembodied ghostly voice

INTO DEVICES

Fairly self-explanatory — characters speaking into their phones or radios, rather than to each other in person.

This is most useful when characters are speaking to someone on the phone and someone right next to them. Or when using a local news station to lay out the story's exposition . Learn more with another script format example.

Pre lap is dialogue from the next scene that starts before the current scene has ended. Simply write "pre lap" in the parentheses next to the character's name.

  • Script Format for Telephone Calls →
  • What Does (CONT'D) Mean in a Script? →
  • How to Handle Text Messages in Screenplay Format →

formatting a script for Performance

6. parentheticals.

Parentheticals can seem like extensions at first glance, but there are a few key distinctions. Extensions are technical directions — they explain where the person saying the dialogue is in the scene.

Parentheticals are directions to the actor – they detail how the line should be  performed.

Here's an example of a parenthetical in proper screenplay format. This is the absolutely crushing scene in  Marriage Story . Notice how writer/director Noah Baumbach uses parentheticals to map out the internal conflict for his characters. Make sure you read the entire scene to see how Baumbach uses the combination of dialogue and parentheticals to craft a multi-layered and emotionally dynamic scene.

Formatting a Screenplay - Screenplay Format - Parentheses - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Script Example  •   Read the complete 'Argument Scene' in Marriage Story

As far as script format goes, parentheticals are placed directly beneath the character ID in (parentheses). Some examples include:

  • AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE

Parentheticals can also include actions for the actors to perform while speaking. This is especially common when writing for television , where page space is at a premium.

  • DRAWING HIS WEAPON
  • FALLING TO HER KNEES

If you're using screenwriting software, it's important to change elements when writing parentheticals. You can't just write them into parentheses and hope it reads correctly!

  • Writing Internal vs. External Conflict →
  • Parentheticals & When To Use Them →
  • Download Complete Marriage Story Script →

FORMATTING A SCREENPLAY

7. screenplay transitions.

Screenplay transitions indicate how an editor should switch between two scenes — they're on the far right of the page (right justified) and placed between two scenes. Proper screenplay formatting usually indicates these as being capitalized. 

Formatting a Screenplay Oceans Example StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Script Example  •   Scene Transitions in Ocean's Eleven

So, rather than mark everything with a “CUT TO:” only use screenplay transitions ONLY when you want it to stand out in some way. For example, in this moment from Ocean's Eleven , writer Ted Griffin uses this transition to emphasize the switch of location to Las Vegas.

Pay attention to how the dialogue and description build  momentum going into the next scene, which is punctuated by the "CUT TO:" transition, and concluded with a vibrant description of Sin City. 

Knowing how to use screenplay transitions is a major part in knowing how to format a screenplay. These days, however, most editors know that no transition indicates a standard cut.

The "CUT TO:" is also widely used when formatting multi-cam television scripts as it marks the end of a scene. Because multi-cam scripts are formatted with page breaks for both scenes and acts, it's important to mark the ending of the scene versus when it's an act break, which is also a commercial break. 

Much like with parentheticals, your screenwriting software will likely have the other standard screenplay transitions preloaded for you. These include, but are not limited to:

This is a really abrupt cut, like a "CUT TO:" times ten. The kind of cut that comes in mid-sentence. Smash cuts are used here to as a form of  montage  (which we'll get into later).  

DISSOLVE TO:

When one scene “dissolves” into another scene, almost transforming into that scene. This is primarily used to indicate that time has passed.

MATCH CUT TO:

A tricky form of edit — where you cut the film so the last shot in the previous scene (say, a hand reaching for a knife) matches the first shot in the new scene (a hand reaching for an apple). Here are some example of how and when  match cuts  are used in film to give you an idea of how they might be written.

Intercutting (or  cross-cutting ) is where you bounce back and forth between two different scenes. It’s usually used for phone calls, but not always. 

formatting a screenplay With Subheaders

8. subheaders.

Subheaders are like mini-sluglines that indicate another place or time within a scene. They’re even formatted like sluglines — left-justified and capitalized. Take a look at this example to get an idea of what we mean:

Screenwriting Format - Subheaders - StudioBinder

Script Example  •  Ratatouille uses subheaders

If you’re using screenwriting software, you’ll probably have to format it as a “scene header” — that’s perfectly fine!

If you’re shooting within a large house, a subheader might be used to indicate a change in rooms. From the creepy FOYER to the haunted LIBRARY, for example. Or to indicate a detail of a certain location.

Or you might want to use a subheader to indicate a jump in time. If a cop is on a long stakeout and you want to show that time has passed, you’d throw it under the subheader LATER.

This is one of the gray areas in script format where some (mostly those in production) say it should be slugged as a new scene (since it's a different time and may require a different setup).

Writers, on the other hand, tend to prefer to save the line so they don't push a page. So instead of saying INT. CAR - LATER, which requires more space, they'd just say LATER and continue the scene since it never changed locations. Either way is proper script formatting, but using subheaders is more casual. 

Script Format For Camera

Formatted like a caps-locked action line, shots direct our attention to a specific visual or way of seeing something. This can include various camera shots , camera angles or camera movements .

In modern times, they're typically used by writer-directors, but also when the writer feels that a visual is key to the entire scene and wants to be sure the director knows it.

Here's a screenplay example from There Will Be Blood , where P.T. Anderson (who will also eventually direct the film) writes multiple shots and angles throughout. Again, unless you're directing the film, it's best to leave these decisions out of your script.

For this script example, we've included the entire opening sequence so you can see for yourself how Anderson tells us everything we need to know about this character without a word of dialogue. 

How to Format A Screenplay - Formatting Shots in a Screenplay - StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

Screenplay Example  •  Writing Shots  •   Read the Entire Scene

Most screenwriters today only specify shots when it's absolutely critical to the interpretation of the scene.

By indicating various shot types in a script, keep in mind that you as a writer are also hammering home to the reader that this is a movie and cameras will be recording it. On a certain level, this can take the reader out of the story, so you might want to use the technique sparingly.

  • Different Shots & Camera Angles in Film →

Montage Script formatting

10. montage.

To start a montage, training or otherwise, write “Begin Montage” as if it were a subheader. Then list out your scenes as you normally would.

Once the montage is over and Rocky finally ran up all those steps, close off your montage with “End Montage,” again written as if it were a subheader.

Click below to read a montage example:

How to Format a Screenplay - The Royal Tenenbaums - Montage Formatting

Script Template  •   How to format a screenplay montage

There is some leeway when writing a montage . For example, writers often prefer to simply list individual lines, or lines set off by hyphens, within the action to indicate different montage locations and sub-scenes.

Just know that if you want to format your script for production, you'll need a slugline for each individual shot or scene within a montage (as in the montage example above). That's because each location means a different setup and a whole separate set of production concerns.

  • Script Examples & Tips for Writing a Montage →
  • Film Script Format for Montage Voiceovers →

formatting a screenplay For Music

Lyrics are tricky when it comes to how to format a screenplay, particularly when they have to be matched to action on the screen. No screenwriting software has a “lyrics” element.

An important rule of thumb when learning how to write a screenplay is that, when done properly, one page of film script equals roughly one minute of screen time. Emphasis on roughly.

Since lyrics take up a lot of page space, but don’t take as much time to sing, that can throw the balance off.

You have two options for solving this problem.

SPACE IT OUT

You can spread out the lyrics on the page with shots and action directions. This will let you design a little of the choreography and help establish the rhythm and pacing of your big musical number.

DESCRIBE THE SEQUENCE

Rather than list out each individual lyric, describe the general feel of the song and the sequence that accompanies it. This is how writer/director  Damien Chazelle  wrote the musical sequences in his  script for  La La Land . 

Screenwriting Format - LaLaLand - StudioBinder

Script Format Example for Lyrics

While leaving the actual lyrics out of the script, it saves space but just remember to account for the scheduling later. The "musical number" described here might take a lot of time to shoot, more than this simple mention suggests.

  • Best Songs in Quentin Tarantino Movies →
  • Iconic Movie Moments Made With Music→
  • Download Screenplay for La La Land →

script format & Exposition

12. chyrons.

Chyrons are the text that appears over the screen — usually used to indicate the time and place of the scene to the audience. You’ll see this sort of thing a lot in military or spy movies.

Start an action line with the word “CHYRON” (yes, in all caps) followed by the text of the chyron. Some writers like to use “TITLE” instead of “CHYRON.” It’s a personal choice. If you were using Title, it would look like this:

Screenplay Format - Chyrons 2 - StudioBinder

Screenplay Example  •  Chyrons in Script Writing Format

Other than the scene heading, this is another opportunity to describe the setting of the story or any additional information or context for the reader. 

Using "Chyron" would look exactly the same, only swapping the word "Chyron" for "Title." Either one is also considered proper script format. 

script format in TV

13. end of act.

This is a special kind of formatting that’s only important if you’re writing for network television.

Whenever you reach the end of an act (or teaser) where the show would cut to commercial break, note it by putting “End of Act One,” (or Two or Three) centered and underlined, into your script.

Then you skip a page and put “Act One” (or Act Two or Three) at the very top — again, centered and underlined.

If you’re using screenwriting software, it’s very important that you open your template as a “one hour” or “half hour” drama.  If you open it as a feature film script, the screenwriting software may not include that element.

Also, keep in mind that a single-cam sitcom and a multi-cam sitcom have a very different script format. 

The single-cam is, essentially, a movie script with act breaks. While the multi-cam has double-spaced dialogued, capitalized action lines, and the new acts begin halfway down the page, and each new scene starts on a new page (as we mentioned). 

Make sure you know which one you're writing and then write to that screenplay format. These two types of comedies have quite different tones, aesthetics, and productions. It's critical that the reader, and even more so the production crew, know which one you've written. 

Start writing your script

It takes practice before screenplay format becomes second nature, even when you’re using a pre-made script template or specialized screenwriting software. Knowing how to format a script comes down to that old adage: "Practice makes perfect." Start writing your script in StudioBinder and we'll handle the formatting for you.

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Enhancing Taiwanese Hokkien Dual Translation by Exploring and Standardizing of Four Writing Systems

Machine translation focuses mainly on high-resource languages (HRLs), while low-resource languages (LRLs) like Taiwanese Hokkien are relatively under-explored. The study aims to address this gap by developing a dual translation model between Taiwanese Hokkien and both Traditional Mandarin Chinese and English. We employ a pre-trained LLaMA 2-7B model specialized in Traditional Mandarin Chinese to leverage the orthographic similarities between Taiwanese Hokkien Han and Traditional Mandarin Chinese. Our comprehensive experiments involve translation tasks across various writing systems of Taiwanese Hokkien as well as between Taiwanese Hokkien and other HRLs. We find that the use of a limited monolingual corpus still further improves the model’s Taiwanese Hokkien capabilities. We then utilize our translation model to standardize all Taiwanese Hokkien writing systems into Hokkien Han, resulting in further performance improvements. Additionally, we introduce an evaluation method incorporating back-translation and GPT-4 to ensure reliable translation quality assessment even for LRLs. The study contributes to narrowing the resource gap for Taiwanese Hokkien and empirically investigates the advantages and limitations of pre-training and fine-tuning based on LLaMA 2. Keywords:  low-resource language, large language model, neural machine translation, Taiwanese Hokkien

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Abstract content

1.   Introduction

Machine translation (MT), as a crucial subfield of natural language processing (NLP), serves a vital role in overcoming language barriers by translating more texts into the desired language. However, current MT systems predominantly cater to high-resource languages (HRLs), posing significant challenges for low-resource languages (LRLs). Specifically, Taiwanese Hokkien, which is mainly spoken in Taiwan, southern China and a number of countries in Southeast Asia (Ding, 2016a ) , faces unique issues owing to historical factors (Ding, 2016b ) and a persistent absence of standardized writing systems. These factors lead to an extra layer of complexity by introducing inconsistent corpora, which hinders the development of NLP research and data-hungry translation models for this language.

In this study, we focus on dual translation between Taiwanese Hokkien and both Mandarin Chinese 1 1 1 All references to Chinese characters and Mandarin Chinese in this paper refer to the traditional versions. and English, aiming to bridge the gap between this LRL and other HRLs. Although Taiwanese Hokkien has a significant spoken user base, written forms are less widespread. It is crucial to prioritize NLP research on Taiwanese Hokkien to develop advanced translation models. Taiwanese Hokkien writing systems primarily fall into three categories: Hokkien Han (HAN) using Chinese characters, Tâi-lô (TL) and P \textipa \textvbaraccent eh-ōe-jī (POJ) using Latin script in phonetic forms, and a hybrid system, Hàn-lô (HL). Table 1 shows an example sentence represented in these different writing systems.

With the recent advancement of large language models (LLMs) like BLOOM (Scao et al., 2022 ) , ChatGPT and LLaMA (Touvron et al., 2023a ) , these models have demonstrated their capabilities across various multilingual NLP tasks, including translation tasks (Jiao et al., 2023 ; García et al., 2023 ; Yang et al., 2023 ; Xu et al., 2023 ) . Despite these advancements, state-of-the-art LLMs leave room for improvement in translation tasks, particularly for languages that are considerably removed from HRL (Jiao et al., 2023 ; Hendy et al., 2023 ) .

This study employs a pre-trained LLaMA 2 (Touvron et al., 2023b ) model specialized in Mandarin Chinese (ZH), aiming to leverage the orthographic similarities between HAN and ZH to develop a translation model capable of translating between different writing systems of Taiwanese Hokkien as well as between Taiwanese Hokkien and other HRLs like ZH and English.

Refer to caption

We conduct a comprehensive set of experiments involving translation between the Latin script and Chinese character writing systems of Taiwanese Hokkien as well as translation to and from ZH and English. Our findings indicate that the use of a monolingual corpus covering all Taiwanese Hokkien writing systems positively impacts the model’s dual translation performance. Contrary to expectations, extending the model’s vocabulary for Taiwanese Hokkien does not yield improvements in these capabilities. We also observe that incorporating parallel datasets involving HRL improves the model’s performance, while adding such datasets between the two different Taiwanese Hokkien scripts has detrimental effects.

We further tried to enhance the HAN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ ZH and HAN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ EN translation by standardizing all Taiwanese Hokkien monolingual corpora into HAN before continued pre-training. The standardization procedure and training flow are illustrated in Figure 1 . Experimental results suggest that this pre-processing step can slightly improve the average translation performance.

For reliable automatic evaluation of translation results, in addition to BLEU score (Papineni et al., 2002 ) and chrF++ (Popović, 2017 ) metrics, we modify Kocmi and Federmann ( 2023 ) ’s evaluation prompt and incorporates a back-translation method (Rapp, 2009 ) so that GPT-4 (OpenAI, 2023 ) can make reliable evaluations even if the target language is a LRL.

We plan to release the translation model that includes HAN, POJ, ZH and English. We anticipate that this will serve as a reliable translation tool for the public community, and foster the generation of diverse datasets for Taiwanese Hokkien.

To summarize, the major contributions of this work are:

Develop and release the first dual translation model for Taiwanese Hokkien, thereby narrowing the resource gap for this low-resource language. 2 2 2 The model and other related resources are available at https://github.com/lbh0830/TW-Hokkien-LLM .

Empirical evidence to support the enhancement of model performance through monolingual corpora on top of parallel data.

Standardized all Taiwanese Hokkien monolingual corpora into HAN prior to continued pre-training, leading to performance enhancements in translations among ZH, English, and HAN.

Introduction of back-translation of LRL into HRL for GPT prompt-based evaluation.

2.   Background

Taiwanese Hokkien, also known as Hokkien, Hoklo, Taigi, Southern Min, or Min Nan, is a unique subset of the Southern Min dialects. Sharing a common linguistic heritage with the Fujian dialects, Taiwanese Hokkien has undergone an independent evolution influenced by a number of external factors, including indigenous languages and the colonial legacies of the Dutch and Japanese (Liao et al., 2020 ) . In the following discussion, this dialect will be referred to as “Hokkien” for the purpose of simplicity.

Although Hokkien ranks as the second most common language spoken in Taiwan, recent census 3 3 3 https://www.stat.gov.tw/public/Data/ 1112144316VT5YTOVB.pdf suggest a looming crisis due to the decreasing proficiency among younger generations. The challenge is compounded by the fact that most Hokkien speakers only have oral proficiency in Hokkien and lack familiarity with written forms. This dual challenge of decreasing oral proficiency and limited literacy underscores the urgency for targeted research.

2.1.   Writing System Diversity in Hokkien

The writing systems of Hokkien can be divided into three main groups. The first is Hokkien Han (HAN), which is based on Chinese with additional characters, followed by Latin script systems such as Tâi-lô (TL) and P \textipa \textvbaraccent eh-ōe-jī (POJ). In addition, a hybrid system known as Hàn-lô (HL) combines elements of both systems. Since 2009, an official orthography for HAN has been established and is currently used in educational systems. However, due to its relatively recent standardization, corpus resources of HAN are scarce compared to other systems. On the other hand, POJ, which was introduced by missionaries in the 19th century, has a substantial amount of digitized historical texts and thus provides a rich corpus of Hokkien writings. Moreover, TL, an adaptation of POJ, maintains a systematic correspondence with it. HL, with its mixture of Latin script and Chinese characters, exhibits considerable variance across textual resources due to the lack of a uniform standard for determining the use of Latin script or Chinese characters. Therefore, in this study, the HL corpus is considered for training purposes, but is excluded from translation evaluations.

2.2.   Semantic Divergence of Shared Chinese Characters in HAN and ZH

Despite the commonality of Chinese characters between HAN and ZH, many homographs differ semantically. For example, the term “手指” translates to “finger” in ZH, while it means “ring” in HAN. Moreover, common HAN terms often correspond to rarely used Chinese characters in ZH, such as ‘覕’ (hide) and ‘ {CJK} UTF8gbsn啉’ (drink). As a result, training a reliable translation model capable of translating between these two languages under low-resource conditions still remains challenges.

3.   Related Work

3.1.   large language models in translation.

LLMs have recently made remarkable progress in translation tasks due to their robust language understanding capabilities from pre-training on massive corpora. In the field of applying LLMs to translation tasks, Moslem et al. ( 2023 ); Lin et al. ( 2022 ); Zhu et al. ( 2023 ); Zhang et al. ( 2023a ); Vilar et al. ( 2023 ); García et al. ( 2023 ) attempted to use in-context learning (ICL) (Brown et al., 2020 ) to enhance the translation capabilities of LLMs. Their study demonstrated how the pattern of in-context learning, the selection of few-shot sentences, and their quantity could impact the translation results. Zhang et al. ( 2023b ); Yang et al. ( 2023 ); Li et al. ( 2023 ) tried to enhance the translation abilities of LLMs through instruction-tuning (Ouyang et al., 2022 ) with small amounts of parallel data. Li et al. ( 2023 ) demonstrated 3 3 3 3 BLEU score on average advancements of multilingual translation when compared to the ICL method. Some research (Hendy et al., 2023 ; Jiao et al., 2023 ) has indicated that LLMs may have limited translation abilities because their language skills are largely shaped by training in English-centered texts. The translation proficiency of LLMs is often significantly limited when translating languages that are not linguistically close to English (Li et al., 2023 ) . As a result, Yang et al. ( 2023 ) and Li et al. ( 2023 ) have included different translation languages for monolingual training. Xu et al. ( 2023 ) ’s latest findings also adopt monolingual training before fine-tuning translation tasks. Using medium-sized models with 7B and 13B parameters, they surpassed GPT-3.5 and NLLB-54B (Team et al., 2022 ) in various translation tasks.

3.2.   Neural Machine Translation in Hokkien

Due to the scarcity of training data, neural machine translation (NMT) for low-resource languages such as Hokkien faces unique challenges. Liao et al. ( 2022 ) has compiled a dataset for Hokkien speech recognition, which not only contributes to speech-related research but also benefits NMT through the transcribed parallel data. The techniques of transfer learning and cross-lingual models offer possible ways to improve Hokkien NMT systems. Lu et al. ( 2022 ) investigates translation task between ZH, Hokkien code-mixing language and ZH. They apply transfer learning to utilize the knowledge pre-trained on ZH by XLM (Conneau and Lample, 2019 ) , and develop a method to synthesize a code-mixing translation parallel dataset to achieve better translation results between the code-mixing language and ZH. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to explore the application of large language models to dual translation for Hokkien, accommodating both its Latin script and Chinese character writing systems.

4.   Methodology

4.1.   corpus preparation, 4.1.1.   monolingual datasets.

As for our continued pre-training data, we have gathered a wide range of linguistic resources from diverse sources that reflect the depth and diversity of the Hokkien language. We have included a comprehensive explanation of the dataset’s domain, writing system, and other essential characteristics in Table 2 and Figure 2 .

Our corpus primarily comprises web articles in Hokkien collected from diverse internet sources including scripts from Hokkien recitation contests 4 4 4 https://han-tsi5.knsh.com.tw/Resource.asp?T=MM , lyrics of Hokkien songs shared in Facebook communities 5 5 5 https://www.facebook.com/groups/922800454445724 , and web-scraped articles covering various domains. The corpus also incorporates religious articles in Hokkien, content from Wikipedia, and Hokkien elementary school textbooks.

Additionally, we include subtitles from Hokkien television programs. Given that these subtitles often lack paragraph breaks and punctuation, we employed GPT-3.5-turbo 6 6 6 The term “GPT-3.5-turbo” in this paper specifically refers to the version “gpt-3.5-turbo-0613”. to refine the textual structure, rendering it more akin to standard articles.

4.1.2.   Parallel Datasets

For fine-tuning data, we collected the datasets from example sentences in the Hokkien dictionary 7 7 7 https://sutian.moe.edu.tw/zh-hant/ , religious texts 8 8 8 http://pojbh.lib.ntnu.edu.tw/script/index.php , and technical terms 9 9 9 https://stti.moe.edu.tw/?lang=sutgi . Due to the lack of direct Hokkien-to-English parallel dataset, for those texts that have corresponding parallel sentences in ZH, we used GPT-3.5-turbo to translate them into English. Further details regarding the writing system and other fundamental features for the datasets are provided in Table 3 .

4.2.   Model Training

Pre-trained large language model.

To leverage the shared Chinese character system between ZH and HAN, we chose TAIDE-7B academic research model 10 10 10 https://taide.tw/ as our base model. Enriched with an additional 24k Chinese character tokens and pre-trained on a 1.7B-token Traditional Chinese corpus, TAIDE-7B serves as an extension of LLaMA 2 (Touvron et al., 2023a ) , enhanced comprehension of Taiwan-specific Traditional Chinese terms.

Vocabulary Extension

Although the vocabulary of TAIDE-7B model contains a large amount of Chinese characters, it still lacks coverage for Hokkien Latin scripts and some rarely used Chinese characters specific to Hokkien. To address this, we further extend the vocabulary by training a sentence-piece (Kudo and Richardson, 2018 ) tokenizer on monolingual Hokkien corpora and merge it back to the original one. Specifically, the vocabulary was extended with an additional 130 Chinese character tokens for HAN and 1876 Latin script tokens for POJ, resulting in a final vocabulary size of 58,505.

Continued Pre-training

We conducted continued pre-training on monolingual Hokkien corpora across all writing systems. We followed procedures from Chinese-LLaMA-2 Cui et al. ( 2023 ) using Low-Rank Adaptation (LoRA) Hu et al. ( 2021 ) with gradient checkpoint to reduce computational cost, and trained 18 epochs to avoid undesirable outputs. Given the rule-based transformation between the POJ and TL systems, we converted all TL in the corpus to POJ using an existing tool 11 11 11 https://github.com/i3thuan5/KeSi , streamlining the model training across these two Latin script writing systems.

Translation Fine-tuning with Instruction

In the fine-tuning stage, we modified the LLaMA 2 instruction tuning template, using:

The label [TRANS] denotes translation, X and Y are the source and target sentences, respectively. The label [{target_lang}] indicates the target language for the translation. During fine-tuning, each language pair in the parallel data was fixed to 17,872 instances, including HAN-ZH, HAN-EN, POJ-ZH, POJ-EN, and POJ-HL. Each model was trained for one epoch.

Pre-training Corpus Script-Standardization

Given the increasing prevalence of HAN in Taiwanese communities in recent years, and aiming to better leverage the orthographic similarities between ZH and HAN, we consequently explored whether standardizing all Hokkien monolingual data into HAN could further improve translation performance in HAN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ ZH and HAN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ EN directions. To achieve this, we employed our translation model that exhibited the best performance in POJ-HAN translations to standardize all Latin scripts in monolingual Hokkien data into the Chinese character system. Continued pre-training was then carried out on this standardized data.

4.3.   Experimental Settings

4.3.1.   two translation testing datasets.

We used iCorpus 12 12 12 https://github.com/Taiwanese-Corpus/icorpus_ka1_han3-ji7 , a resource originally created by Academia Sinica and subsequently augmented by communities, as our testing data. It comprises news articles from various domains and includes HAN, POJ and ZH. However under human evaluation, the HAN section of iCorpus contains a considerable number of lexical inaccuracies. To cover this issue in the test set, we first selected terms in HAN that deviate significantly from ZH, using their frequency as a selection criterion to ensure the translation difficulty. Based on this criterion, we sampled the top 100 sentences where HAN appears frequently and manually corrected their lexicons according to official orthography. This resulted in a subset that we named iCorpus-100. Due to the size limitation of iCorpus-100, we integrated an additional data from TAT (Liao et al., 2020 ) , specifically to enhance the evaluation of ZH ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN and EN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN translations. TAT comprises 2,661 parallel sentences sourced from the Taiwanese Across Taiwan speech recognition competitions. Using the same process as the training set, the EN side of the parallel data were generated through translation from ZH using GPT-3.5-turbo. Neither of these test data was used in continued pre-training and fine-tuning stages.

4.3.2.   Evaluation Metrics

In order to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of our translation models, we used four different metrics: BLEU score (Papineni et al., 2002 ) , chrF++ (Popović, 2017 ) , and two additional GPT-based metrics. Unlike BLEU score, chrF++ includes evaluations at the character level. This lead to significant difference between these two metrics when the target language is Latin script, especially POJ. We attribute this to the accent variations in POJ that may alter one or two characters within a word. Such accent-induced variations were not normalized in our corpus. As a result, the model may produce accent inconsistencies with the ground truth, leading to significant penalties in BLEU score, but relatively small drop in chrF++.

Though widely used in translation assessment, BLEU score and chrF++ mainly focus on lexicon-level granularity and do not provide a comprehensive evaluation of overall translation quality. In particular, these measures are limited when applied to large language models, which often require more nuanced methods of evaluation (Hendy et al., 2023 ) . Kocmi and Federmann ( 2023 ) indicate that GPT-4 holds promise for accurate evaluation of the translation outputs. Therefore, we employ GPT-4 13 13 13 The term “GPT-4” in this paper specifically refers to the version “gpt-4-0613”. to assess the generated translations, ranging from 0 to 100, by providing both the model’s translation and a reference. However, GPT-4’s ability to comprehend Hokkien is restricted. To overcome this constraint, we use the approach inspired by Rapp ( 2009 ) to implement back-translation for the model’s output when translating from ZH or English into Hokkien. We then compare the back-translated output with the source sentence for evaluation. Note that this approach is not applicable in situations where both the source and target sentences are in Hokkien. For the evaluation of translation scores from GPT-4, we conducted a human qualitative analysis on 20 samples from each of the five score intervals, totaling 100 examples. The qualitative findings based on these analyses are summarized in Table 4 . Additionally, the prompt template for GPT-4 evaluations and the examples corresponding to these five score intervals are detailed in Appendix A .

After evaluating with GPT-4, we calculate the GPT-4 score by taking the average of each translation result. Since translations scoring 80 or above closely approximate the original sentence’s meaning, we consider them as correct translations, which are used to compute the translation accuracy, named as GPT-4 accuracy.

5.   Experiment Results and Analysis

5.1.   experimental ablation studies.

In order to isolate the impact of various data inputs, we conducted ablation studies on continued pre-training of three different Hokkien writing systems, the extension of the input vocabulary with Hokkien Chinese characters and Hokkien Latin systems, and fine-tuning with these three different Hokkien writing systems 14 14 14 Our focus on Hokkien LRL led us to exclude HRL data from training and evaluation. .

5.1.1.   Continued Pre-training Corpora and Vocabulary Extension Ablation Studies

As shown in Table 5 , we took LLaMA 2-7B without any continued pre-training as a baseline. We compared its performance with the TAIDE-7B model continued pre-trained on different monolingual data and evaluated the impact of extending the Hokkien dictionary. Here, “NONE” indicates no continued pre-training on any Hokkien data, “HAN” indicates pre-training solely on Chinese character-based Hokkien data, and “ALL” indicates the inclusion of Latin script (POJ) and hybrid (HL) Hokkien data in addition to “HAN”. All these models were then fine-tuned using all available parallel data.

The baseline model, which has no further continued pre-training, performs the worst. In contrast, the TAIDE-7B model improves significantly in all translation directions without relying on Hokkien monolingual data but ZH data. This suggests that using a similar HRL model as a foundational model is beneficial when supplementary monolingual data is not available. Pre-training on HAN data improves the GPT-4 score by 4 4 4 4 to 6 6 6 6 points in HAN-related translations. Incorporating all Hokkien data yields the best performance, particularly in POJ-related translations, with a 10 10 10 10 to 20 20 20 20 points increase in GPT-4 score. These findings align with previous research (Yang et al., 2023 ; Li et al., 2023 ; Xu et al., 2023 ) , demonstrating the substantial performance improvement in translation tasks when monolingual data is utilized for languages that the foundational model is not familiar with.

Regarding vocabulary extension, since the added vocabulary primarily consists of Latin scripts from POJ, the model with vocabulary extension exhibits superior performance only when the target language is POJ. For other translation directions, these models exhibit a slight decrement, averaging 3 3 3 3 points lower on the GPT-4 score compared to models without vocabulary extension. We attribute this to the limited size of the pre-training corpus, which hinders effective tuning of newly added tokens. Consequently, we opted not to extend the vocabulary and suggest future work in collecting a larger POJ corpus for further investigation.

5.1.2.   Fine-tuning Datasets Ablation Study

Given that the model using all Hokkien monolingual data without vocabulary extension performed the best on average across all translation directions, we selected it as the base model for further experiments in the fine-tuning stage. We investigated the impact of incorporating different parallel data during fine-tuning. The parallel data containing HL was only available in the HL ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ POJ direction. As a baseline, we followed the methodology of Li et al. ( 2023 ) , utilizing in-context learning (ICL) for 8-shot translation without any fine-tuning.

Table 6 indicates that models fine-tuned on parallel datasets significantly outperform few-shot ICL models across all translation directions, particularly in directions involving Latin script Hokkien (POJ), with a GPT-4 score increasing from 17 17 17 17 to 40 40 40 40 points. Demonstrate that the benefits of fine-tuning are particularly substantial for writing systems that are not closely related to HRL.

For ZH ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN and EN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN directions, including EN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN data enhances translation performance. However, further incorporation of POJ and HL parallel data does not yield additional improvements, suggesting that focusing solely on HRL in the parallel data is more effective for aligning cross-lingual embeddings.

In Hokkien script translation, the model performs the best when all parallel data are included. The inclusion of POJ ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HL data dramatically improves translation capabilities in the POJ ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN. The chrF++ improved by 6.05 6.05 6.05 6.05 and 17.16 17.16 17.16 17.16 points for HAN-POJ and POJ-HAN directions, respectively. We hypothesize that HL contains a few Han characters, allowing the model to learn some lexical correlations between different scripts in Hokkien.

5.2.   Pre-training Corpus Script-Standardization

We evaluated the efficacy of continued pre-training using three different corpora:

Monolingual Hokkien data in Chinese characters only.

Monolingual Hokkien data in all writing systems.

All monolingual Hokkien data standardized into Han characters.

These three models were subsequently fine-tuned using only ZH ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN and EN ↔ ↔ \leftrightarrow ↔ HAN parallel data.

Table 7 presents the evaluation results of these three models on TAT. The model pre-trained on standardized monolingual data on par or slightly outperforms the other models on average across both pairs of languages. This suggests that standardizing the writing system into Chinese characters can yield benefits on HAN translation.

6.   Conclusion

We conducted a thorough examination of the efficiency of large language models in a translation system including Mandarin Chinese, English and two different Hokkien writing systems (HAN and POJ). We employed evaluation metrics including BLEU score, chrF++, and a GPT-4-based scoring method. Our results showed that employing Hokkien similar high-resource language model as a foundational model led to significant performance enhancements. Furthermore, models pre-trained on all available Hokkien data exhibited the highest performance. Extending vocabulary appeared to favor the incorporation of more monolingual data to elicit its efficiency. In the fine-tuning stage, the model demonstrates enhanced HAN translation only when it is supplied with parallel data corresponding to the HRLs that were extensively involved in its prior pre-training. Additionally, we investigated the benefits of standardizing the Hokkien scripts to Chinese characters. Our future work will explore the potential advantage of data augmentation through translations from ZH monolingual corpora into Hokkien Han and assess its impact on translation quality. Moreover, extending this research to include other prevalent spoken languages in Taiwan, like Hakka, can offer a more extensive viewpoint on handling the linguistic variations in Taiwan.

7.   Limitation

The methodology used in this study is conditional on the fact that one writing system in a low-resource language is similar to a high-resource language, which can be seen as a limitation. In this work, Hokkien Han and Mandarin Chinese share similar writing systems and possess a substantial amount of common vocabulary. This allows for a transfer of knowledge from extensive Mandarin Chinese texts, thereby leveraging the benefits of large language models pre-trained on abundant Mandarin Chinese corpora to achieve an exceptionally efficient translation model.

8.   Ethical Considerations

One of the major ethical challenges in developing large language models for Hokkien is the limited resources and biased nature of available data. Most of the existing datasets come from news articles that exhibit specific ideological stances, political inclinations, or ethnic biases. The utilization of such skewed data may inadvertently train the model to propagate these biases, thus affecting its fairness. To address ethical concerns, we expanded our dataset to include lyrics, essays, and other neutral literary texts. Our goal was to reduce potential biases and create a more balanced and representative model.

9.   Acknowledgements

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Yu-Chun Wang for the generous assistance and insightful discussions on Taiwanese Hokkien. Our thanks also go to Shou-Yi, Hung for his invaluable help in polishing the paper writing. Additionally, we are deeply grateful to all the reviewers for their dedication to improving this research. We are thankful to the Trustworthy AI Dialogue Engine (TAIDE) project for providing the Traditional Chinese academic research foundation LLM, which served as a crucial base for building our model. Special appreciation goes to the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC) for providing computational and storage resources. This work was also supported in part by the Co-creation Platform of the Speech-AI Research Center, Industry-Academia Innovation School, NYCU, under the framework of the National Key Fields Industry-University Cooperation and Skilled Personnel Training Act, from the Ministry of Education (MOE), the National Development Fund (NDF), and industry partners in Taiwan.

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Appendix A Details of the GPT-4 evaluation methodology

A.1.   prompt template for evaluations.

When the target language is in English or Mandarin Chinese:

When the source language is in English or Mandarin Chinese and the target language is in Hokkien:

A.2.   Examples of GPT-4 Scoring on Translations

To provide a more comprehensive understanding of the GPT-4 scoring standards, we have included examples of translations from Hokkien Han to Mandarin Chinese and English in Table 8 and Table 9 , respectively. These examples demonstrate the varied scoring outcomes provided by GPT-4, alongside the translation qualities that correspond to different scores.

Appendix B JSD for Corpora

B.1.   jsd of continued pre-training monolingual corpora.

We use Jensen-Shannon divergence (JSD) as a metric to assess the domain similarity of the monolingual HAN corpora. Due to the absence of open-sourced word segmentation tools for HAN, calculating JSD presents a notable challenge. However, the HAN writing system’s resemblance to Traditional Chinese characters allows us to utilize the CKIP Traditional Chinese segmentation tool 15 15 15 https://github.com/ckiplab/ckiptagger for processing the HAN corpora. We then computed the JSD and analyzed the domain similarity of our corpora.

Figure 3 demonstrates that the recitation contest and web-scraped article corpora are more closely aligned. This similarity can be attributed to the fact that both corpora primarily consist of well-structured prose articles, which often explore topics related to local culture, customs and traditions. The content in Hokkien textbooks is composed of verses resembling children’s rhymes, making it more akin to Hokkien song lyrics. Subtitles exhibit a distinctive divergence as they primarily feature colloquial sentence structures, setting them apart from the other two groups.

B.2.   JSD of Fine-tuning Parallel Data

In the parallel datasets, the CKIP word segmentation tool is employed to process the Traditional Chinese texts. Consequently, we calculate JSD similarity scores based on the Traditional Chinese portion of the texts. Figure 4 illustrates the similarity between the training set, which includes both dictionary and technical terms, and the test set, encompassing iCorpus-100 and TAT. We observe that the technical terms subset diverges significantly from the others, because it consists solely of terminology, making it less similar to more general sentences. Moreover, there are significant domain differences between the training and test sets, indicating that achieving a high performance on the translation with this test set presents a considerable challenge.

Appendix C Evaluating GPT-4’s Translation Performance on Hokkien

To evaluate GPT-4’s translation performance on Hokkien, we conducted experiments prompting it to translate between Hokkien and both ZH and English. When prompted to translate into HAN, GPT-4 predominantly generated output in ZH, with a limited mixture of HAN and Cantonese words. This finding led us to conclude that this approach is not suitable for assessing back-translation accuracy, as it primarily evaluates GPT-4’s translation capabilities in ZH, rather than Hokkien. Additionally, when prompted to translate into POJ, GPT-4’s output was completely incomprehensible.

Consequently, we only present the results where the target language is ZH or English in Table 10 . When translating from HAN, GPT-4 outperforms our best model by 11.15 11.15 11.15 11.15 and 15.95 15.95 15.95 15.95 points on the GPT-4 score for HAN-ZH and HAN-EN translation tasks, respectively. Apart from its significantly larger model size, GPT-4’s superior performance might be attributed to the similarity writing system between ZH and HAN 16 16 16 When directly comparing HAN and ZH sentences in iCorpus-100 dataset, we obtain a BLEU score of 45.89 45.89 45.89 45.89 and chrF++ of 44.91 44.91 44.91 44.91 . , allowing it to process HAN as a noisy version of ZH and leverage its knowledge of ZH. In contrast, when the source language is POJ, GPT-4 struggles to produce meaningful translations, performing worse than our model with GPT-4 scores of 37.65 37.65 37.65 37.65 and 20.4 20.4 20.4 20.4 points for POJ-ZH and POJ-EN, respectively. This emphasizes the need for a specialized large language model designed for Hokkien, which this research aims to address.

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    Scripts are structured in the classic storytelling format of three or five acts. This structure can dictate what occurs in a 3-hour movie or a short 20-second commercial. The simplest structure contains three acts, but it can also expand to five acts. Act 1: The Hook: You get the setup and exposition here.

  14. Playwriting 101: Glossary

    The art of writing scripts for a visual medium. Script The blueprint or roadmap that outlines a movie story through visual descriptions, actions of characters and their dialogue. The term "script" also applies to stageplays as well. Script cover What protects the script on its travels between the writer and its many potential readers.

  15. Screenwriting Terms

    The process of writing a script a difficult barely but aforementioned vocabulary, abstracts, and defintions related to the job can be a bit elusive. But don't worry, we're going to cover a variety off screenwriting terms that every screenwriter needs to know. ... Script Vocabulary • Shooting Script vs. Spec Write via Word Dancer ...

  16. Scriptwriting 101: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Script

    As Alfred Hitchcock puts it: "A lot of writers think they're filling the page with words, but they're filling the screen with images.". It may seem obvious, but it's the key thing to remember in scriptwriting: you're writing prospectively. The stack of pages you have when you're done is not the finished product.

  17. PDF Vocabulary of Film Words With Definitions

    Vocabulary of Film Words With Definitions (Continued) Filmmaking Script writing: The act of writing a script for a film. Storyboarding: Creating images of the shots you plan to shoot in your film. Plotting: Planning the storyline. What happens in the beginning, middle, and end. Editing Terms Cut: You cut when you delete part of a clip.

  18. Script Writing Vocabulary Flashcards

    Script. Writing that will be read and acted out. Fade in/Fade out. Bringing in a movie from black screen to normal brightness or vice versa. Props. movable objects that actors use. Green screen. Allows different backgrounds to be added to make a film. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Voiceover (VO), Slug line ...

  19. Screenplay Format

    A movie script or screenplay is the blueprint for any feature film, TV show or video game. Scripts includes characters actions, dialogue and movement as well as stage direction. Movie script format has a unique set of industry standard rules, which are slightly different than the script writing format used in a shooting script.

  20. PDF Scriptwriting Format

    For scripts, the standard font is Courier New 12 point. Scriptwriting and play formatting still emulate the days with the typewriter, so while many of us are unable to get clacking on the good old keys, this font will suffice. Use standard 8.5" x 11" white copy paper printed on one side only, using black ink.

  21. PDF UNIT FIVE: INTRO TO SCRIPT WRITING

    The unit will end with a partner script writing assignment which is performed in front of the class. 1 - Partner Scene Brainstorming. In this lesson, students will create a scene outline by brainstorming and selecting the key foundations of their scene (setting, relationships, and conflicting objectives). 2 - Script Drafting.

  22. Script

    script: 1 n something written by hand Synonyms: hand , handwriting Types: show 10 types... hide 10 types... shorthand , stenography , tachygraphy a method of writing rapidly cursive , cursive script , longhand , running hand rapid handwriting in which letters are set down in full and are cursively connected within words without lifting the ...

  23. PDF Script Writing Lesson Pack Introduction

    In the same pair, students work together to write their own lines to record a familiar scenario e.g. making an excuse for being late, justifying a silly purchase etc. Each student will take on the role of one character and write those specific lines. Pairs swap scripts with another pair to make sure the script can be followed and performed. 5 6

  24. KS2 English: Write a script

    This short film presents a real-world context for writing a script and challenges children to write a short script for a TV show. The presenter, Naomi Wilkinson, is on the set studio of a popular ...

  25. Enhancing Taiwanese Hokkien Dual Translation by Exploring

    The writing systems of Hokkien can be divided into three main groups. The first is Hokkien Han (HAN), which is based on Chinese with additional characters, followed by Latin script systems such as Tâi-lô (TL) and P \textipa \textvbaraccent eh-ōe-jī (POJ). In addition, a hybrid system known as Hàn-lô (HL) combines elements of both systems.