Is there an industry standard on which types of words need capitalizing?



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  • Is there an industry standard on which types of words need capitalizing?

    I know it should be a simple question, but it seems like every script I see has a different convention for which types of words in the script are capitalized. Obviously everyone capitalizes a character's name the first time it's stated, or something like "...and sees a teenage GIRL passing..." But there seems to be no standard industry consensus on anything else. Some people capitalize plural words like "...and sees two teenage GIRLS passing..." while others don't capitalize plural words. Some people capitalize nouns and/or adjectives and/or verbs of all types, while others don't. And the thing that recently drove me crazy and inspired me to post this topic was reading the Chernobyl episode scripts by Craig Mazin, who I consider one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood and has/had a popular podcast talking about the how-to's of screenwriting. But even his Chernobyl scripts are completely non-sensical and inconsistent when it comes to which words he capitalizes. Take this, as an example:

    "Yuvchenko leads the two trainees down a dark, SPARKING hall. They're SWEATING. Tremendous heat up here. Smoke. They're close to the fire. Ahead: a LARGE METAL DOOR, covered in DUST."

    Why are adjectives like "SPARKING" and "LARGE METAL" capitalized, but not "dark" or "tremendous" or "close"? Why are nouns like "DOOR" and "DUST" capitalized, while "trainees" and "hall" and "smoke" and "fire" aren't? The verb "SWEATING" is capitalized but not "leads". And then he'll go several paragraphs without capitalizing any words whatsoever, and then start again capitalizing certain nouns/verbs/adjectives but not others. It just seems to have no logic or consistency to it.

    So, how do you guys handle choosing which words to capitalize? And what are your thoughts on whether managers/studios even care about this or if they're just focused on the story?

  • #2
    No there is not. It honestly doesn't matter is what I learned. But in general CAPS for me are for FIRST TIME CHARACTER INTRO. I think most people do this. I'm sure someone doesn't and it still sells.

    I often just do caps for SOUNDS or BIG REVEALS. But again, others don't, maybe they bold, maybe they don't. Underline.

    It's whatever doesn't get in the way of a read. To me CAPS should be say 5% of the 110 pages. 95% just normal text.

    One of the producers giving me notes asked me why I capitalized RANDOM GUY runs by. And I'm like it's the first time he appeared. He didn't even know the rule and he's been doing this for 30 plus years. That's how little it mattered to him. The other guy who reps writers knew of course.

    So in general, what I worried about the most when I first started writing was this stuff and it turned out to be the least important by far. It's honestly the thing that took the longest to learn about screenwriting. When day you wake up like you're Neo in The Matrix and it frees you to focus on the fun part -- the writing.


    • #3
      Thanks Bono. I've been using the same rule... CAPS for character intros and big reveals and loud noises and things like that, but generally not very often. I'm glad people focus on the thing that matters, the story.


      • #4
        I don't think about what I cap. It can include: characters, sounds, shots, objects, and actions.

        More often in action sequences; less often in quiet moments.

        Caps can heighten the energy, suspense and emotion.

        Industry people want to be entertained.

        They want to read a great story.

        "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
        Hollywood producer