Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

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  • Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

    I recently read THE DARK KNIGHT and THE LOW DWELLER scripts, and in the scripts Verbs and sometimes nouns during Action were capitalized.

    IE: SLAMS instead of slams
    LEAPS instead of leaps
    CARRYING ASSAULT RIFLES rather than carrying assault rifles
    etc

    This was one of the few scripts I saw that did this, and I'm wondering whether or not to use it for Verbs during Action sequences in my own scripts.

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

    i've been doing it lately to emphasize meaningful actions by the characters. maybe not as much as sounds, which i always capitalize. but the important movements i want to call attention to. i just try not to go overboard with it

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    • #3
      Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

      Originally posted by GoldLane View Post
      I recently read THE DARK KNIGHT and THE LOW DWELLER scripts, and in the scripts Verbs and sometimes nouns during Action were capitalized.

      IE: SLAMS instead of slams
      LEAPS instead of leaps
      CARRYING ASSAULT RIFLES rather than carrying assault rifles
      etc

      This was one of the few scripts I saw that did this, and I'm wondering whether or not to use it for Verbs during Action sequences in my own scripts.

      Any thoughts?
      I use it throughout my scripts. It can be a great tool to add emphasis and clarity, IMO. It's really a personal choice. I think after you've developed your own style and voice it will come naturally.

      Post Edit: for redundancy-- a writer should know better

      Best,
      FA4
      Last edited by finalact4; 09-17-2013, 07:15 PM.
      "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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      • #4
        Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

        The book "Writing Screenplays That Sell" refers to those capitalized sound effects as what happens when a shooting script is created, which comes long after a spec screenplay is sold. The author intimates that these and other elements such as numbering scenes do not belong in a spec script or screenplay.

        The book suggests it is better for the screenwriter to concentrate on thoroughly engaging the reader in order to create a movie in their mind without any distractions therefrom. The implication being that capitalizing sound effects (though commonly done) is unnecessary and could even become a distraction. Verbs did not enter the discussion.
        Last edited by Clint Hill; 09-26-2013, 09:13 AM.
        "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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        • #5
          Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

          WSTS is literally a 25 year old book. Read current scripts; steal the style you like.

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          • #6
            Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

            edit: I just found out that DDP's censorship won't let me capitalize everything in my post. Crazy!
            QUESTICLES -- It's about balls on a mission.

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            • #7
              Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

              It's not something that matters, I think.

              Capitalizing words in action paragraphs can be done to make the script more production-friendly (sound effects, first time a character appears) or to add emphasis. If it's about emphasis, using it too often undermines this effect. Also, I find it particularly annoying reading action paragraphs full of capitalized words and sentences; it just reads badly.

              The abuse of means of emphasis in action paragraphs is often a symptom of weak prose or, worse, a scene that's developed poorly. So while it can very well be just a matter of style, sometimes it's a way of trying to hide flaws in the script.

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              • #8
                Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                i've been doing it lately to emphasize meaningful actions by the characters. maybe not as much as sounds, which i always capitalize. but the important movements i want to call attention to. i just try not to go overboard with it
                ^^^^^^^^^
                SL35
                SL35
                Potent dreamer. Newb disclaimer.

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                • #9
                  Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                  There are no rules. That said, I was under the impression that it's considered passe to capitalize all of the sound effects in a screenplay these days, unless it's for added emphasis at certain times. Except maybe still in TV scripts. No?

                  I like the use of all caps for some emphasis in general, as long as it isn't overdone to the point where it loses meaning. For action paragraphs, it can make the read easier. But I did read one popular script where it was so overdone, like every other word, that it made the read super annoying.

                  It's also a handy device in description, to signal to the reader that something is going to be important, without using a "close up" or "close on" direction, if that's a writer's preference.

                  I picture a future where scripts are written all in caps, with lower case used only for emphasis.
                  "The Hollywood film business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S Thompson

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                  • #10
                    Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                    Jeff's answer was the best one.

                    As long as the writing is great, no one will care. Find a style that suits with you and go with it.
                    QUESTICLES -- It's about balls on a mission.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                      Originally posted by cshel View Post
                      That said, I was under the impression that it's considered passe to capitalize all of the sound effects in a screenplay these days, unless it's for added emphasis at certain times.
                      Amen. The practice came about when silent pictures evolved into talkies, yet it's amazing how enduring it still is. I've heard different arguments from proponents who justify the capping of sound effects, ranging from the sound department being too dense to figure out what constitutes an effect to its usefulness as a bookmark while stopping and starting reading.

                      But to me CAPPING sounds is an irritation. Usually I'm taken out of the story with the constant reminder that THIS IS A MOVIE! The ridiculousness of the practice is never more evident in sound fx-heavy paragraphs where cars HONK, birds TWEET, wind WHISTLES, crowds ROAR, and readers PUKE.

                      My writing partner even went so far as to unnecessarily cap non-sound effect verbs like someone LAUGHING or CRYING.

                      Capping is a powerful tool to accentuate important moments or items. Otherwise, it's just annoying shouting.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                        Capping is a personal choice.

                        Some writers don't like to see capping in the narrative because they find it to be annoying. They feel it's jarring to the read going back and forth from uppercase to lowercase that it gives the action/description a cluttered look and that they're being shouted at.

                        Writers who like to cap do it for different reasons. Some like to emphasize the flow of important action scenes, giving it a better visual sense of what's happening, creating energy and excitement.

                        Also, they realize impatient readers might skim through description, so by giving special emphasis to any words or phrases that embody strong sound elements and strong action verbs it allows readers who skim to still get a good vibe for what's happening.

                        Those who don't like capping counter with: If you read novels, you'll notice that the writer doesn't cap.

                        Novels and films are different mediums. Films are visual.

                        Some writers, specifically action and comedy writers, like to emphasize specific words or phrases to give it some oomph. To have the action or joke POP.

                        A writer's effectiveness in writing entertaining and compelling visuals for the screen is the difference between success and failure.

                        If a writer feels capping helps get across energy, excitement and emotion, the writer isn't wrong for doing it. It's their personal feeling and choice.

                        Now, sure, capping could be done badly, where between character introductions, sound effects, emphasizing an object and/or action, etc. it could make the narrative confusing and make it look too busy.

                        A writer needs to take care when capping. That there is an important reason behind capping this word, phrase or sentence. Not to over do it toward distraction.

                        Some writers know busy executives love to skim action/description to get to the dialogue, so the writer highlights a few select words, phrases or sentences (the essence of the scene) by capping.

                        For example, from "Sixth Sense" written by M. Night Shyamalan:

                        INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT

                        TWO GIGGLING SHADOWS APPEAR IN THE DOORWAY. They try to turn on the light. It doesn't come on.

                        MALCOM
                        Bulb's out.

                        Anna giggles some more as Malcolm's shadow stumbles across the bedroom.

                        MALCOLM TURNS ON THE BATHROOM LIGHT.

                        A SHAFT OF LIGHT falls on Anna as she stands in the corner of the room.

                        Anna smiles playfully and pulls off her sweater. She sways to a pretend striptease song.

                        Malcolm can't hold back his grin. He joins in -- slowly peeling off the sweatshirt. He looks back to Anna. She's stopped her playful dance. She's facing away from him.

                        He walks toward her. HIS GRIN QUIETLY DISAPPEARS. Malcolm's face turns to rock as his attention is drawn to the SHATTERED WINDOW in their bedroom. The wind moves through the room. A lamp lays broken on the ground by the window.

                        -- Now, let's see if we can get a feel for this scene with just the highlighted words and dialogue.

                        INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT

                        TWO GIGGLING SHADOWS APPEAR IN THE BEDROOM DOORWAY.

                        MALCOLM
                        Bulb's out.

                        MALCOLM TURNS ON THE BATHROOM LIGHT.

                        A SHAFT OF LIGHT

                        HIS GRIN QUIETLY DISAPPEARS.

                        SHATTERED WINDOW.

                        -- Uh-oh.

                        Some writers like to use caps in their dialogue to emphasize and express emotion, but that's another thread.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                          Love the SIXTH SENSE example, Joe. Well done.

                          Capping is a personal preference. I personally use caps a fair bit, as I write a lot of action and it's useful. If you don't like it, don't do it, but no reader is going to ding you for it.
                          QUESTICLES -- It's about balls on a mission.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Capitalizing Verbs for Effect?

                            Originally posted by robertcc View Post
                            Amen. The practice came about when silent pictures evolved into talkies, yet it's amazing how enduring it still is. I've heard different arguments from proponents who justify the capping of sound effects, ranging from the sound department being too dense to figure out what constitutes an effect to its usefulness as a bookmark while stopping and starting reading.

                            But to me CAPPING sounds is an irritation. Usually I'm taken out of the story with the constant reminder that THIS IS A MOVIE! The ridiculousness of the practice is never more evident in sound fx-heavy paragraphs where cars HONK, birds TWEET, wind WHISTLES, crowds ROAR, and readers PUKE.

                            My writing partner even went so far as to unnecessarily cap non-sound effect verbs like someone LAUGHING or CRYING.

                            Capping is a powerful tool to accentuate important moments or items. Otherwise, it's just annoying shouting.
                            Actually, I could understand that you might cap laughing or crying, because it's in a grey area where, it's not dialogue, but it's a vocal action on the part of an actor.
                            "The Hollywood film business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S Thompson

                            Comment

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