Parenthetical Basics

Parentheticals are parts of a dialogue block that can convey to the reader or actor portraying a character a number of things regarding a particular block of dialogue.

Whether it be how the words are to be spoken, to whom they are spoken, what the actor is doing as they are speaking them, in what language they are spoken, and more, parentheticals, when used in moderation, can be useful tools for screenwriters to convey their vision of a scene.

But DO NOT OVERUSE PARENTHETICALS!! Too many Parentheticals are a sure sign of an amateur screenwriter.

Parentheticals either follow Character Headings and precede Dialogue, or they are embedded within Dialogue on their own line.

Here are some more Basic Rules of Parentheticals:

  • AKA: Personal Direction, Character Direction, Actor Instruction, Wryly (slang)

  • Margins/Indents: Left Margin: 3.5" from left page edge. Right Margin: 3" from right page edge (or 5.5" from left edge.)

    The experts differ. But most indent as I specify. The Final Draft default is 3" from the left page edge, but 5.5" from the same edge, for a 2.5" line length. But since Final Draft is the industry standard, you can be comfortable accepting its suggested indents.

  • What They Do: Tell an actor how to deliver a line, what to do while delivering a line, and/or to whom in the scene the line is to be delivered.

  • Basic Rules: Single-space before and after a parenthetical, and always enclose in parentheses.

  • Caps Rules: Write in lowercase, even the first letter. The only Capitalization within a Parenthetical would be for proper names, such as (to Howard).

  • Punctuation: DO NOT end Parentheticals with a period. If two or more directions are within the same Parenthetical, separate them with semi-colons, such as in this example:

Two Parenthetical directions, separated by a semi-colon.