How to Format a Stage Play in Microsoft Word
While film makers and musicians have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, writers, especially playwrights, have it easy. All you need is a pen and some paper. But to get your play ready for submission, whether to an agent or an acting company, you'll have to get your script into proper typed format.
Open Microsoft Word and click "File" and "New" to create a blank document. Save this document with a title that you and others will easily recognize as your play.
Make the first page of the document your cover page. This will give whomever is reading your play (agent, actor, director, etc.) all the basic information they need. Center the text and hit the "Enter" key until you have moved the cursor down about 3.5 inches. Type the title of the play in all caps, go down the page two spaces and type "by," then two more spaces and type your name. In the lower right-hand corner of the page, put your contact information, minus your name.
Hit "Enter" until you are on the next page. This will be the first page of your script. This page--and the pages after it--need to have page numbers. At this point, you have to decide if you want to have the act number with the page number, or just the page number by itself. If you want only the page number, go to "Insert" and "Page Numbers." If you would like to number each act, go to "View" and "Headers and Footers" and have Word add "Act I" (note the Roman numerals) to the top of the page. You will have to adjust this when you get to Act II, and so on.
Set the margins for your document. The top, bottom and right margins should all be set to 1 inch. Set the left margin to 1.5 inches.
The different elements of your script (characters, dialog, stage directions, etc.) are all placed differently on the page, but they follow a standard format that you can save as a template. To begin an act and a scene, center your text and type the name of the act and underline it (all in caps). Enter down two spaces and type the scene name using the same format. Use Roman numerals for the act names and Arabic numerals for the scene names.
When it is time for a character to speak (or perform an action), you type the character's name in all caps, centered on the page.
On the line directly below the character's name, you will begin to type the dialog he is speaking, or the action he is performing. If you are typing dialog, begin all the way at the left margin, which is set to 1.5 inches. Also, dialog has no special right margin, only the 1-inch margin you set at the beginning.
Type your stage directions in parenthesis, 2.75 inches from the left side of the page. Stage directions go for 2.5 inches before wrapping, so that it makes a nice little centered paragraph on your page.
- Make sure to always capitalize your characters' names in dialog headings and stage directions. This makes reading and rehearsing the play easier.
- If you are a novice playwright, don't get too hung up on formatting your play. Work on your writing and get some professional material before you start nitpicking about script format.
- Be sure you save your script often. Back up your work in a remote location in case your document becomes corrupted.