Understanding the terms of your craft is a very important priority you should follow. Therefore, as a screenwriter, you must know screenwriting terms to guide you to write the perfect screenplay.
However, we should note that there are some screenwriting terms that are deemed unnecessary. Such terms as CLOSE ON or ANGLE ON are only in extreme cases to emphasize on a particular object or character.Otherwise, leave those terms for the director. On the other hand, the screenwriting terms are numerous. But we shall only focus on 20 of them today and they are:
1. FADE IN
This is the first thing you will notice in the body of most screenplays. FADE IN is a screenwriting term that is written on the top left corner of a page which ushers in a scene. We also have FADE OUT which is written under a scene on the right corner to mark the end of a scene or screenplay. Then there is FADE TO which is written on the left to transition scenes that that are longer in lengths of time.
INT means interior which refers to an interior of a scene. For instance, a scene that is happening in a living room of a house is an INT. EXT means exterior which a scene that happens outside. I/E refers to interior and exterior. It is used for when a scene is happening inside and outside at the same time. For instance, a moving car.
Action is a screenwriting term that describes a scene, character movement, sounds and visuals in a screenplay.
Written in capital letters or CAPS, a character is a person in a scene of a screenplay.
A montage can be described as a numbered sequence of scenes which shows the actions of a character or characters in a story. Montage shows different scenes in a short time.
It describes when, where and what happens in a particular place in a story.
Point Of View. It is a screenwriting term that refers to where viewers see a scene from the point of view of a character.
Continuous is a term that has become very popular for screenwriters in recent years. It refers to an action or scene that move to another without interrupting the time. Continuous is very popular among screenwriter as it saves stress of repeating other terms. For instance, you can the term to replace DAY, NIGHT and CUT TO. An example from Inception:
INT. BATHROOM, WORKSHOP – CONTINUOUS
Dialogue refers to what a character says in a screenplay.
10. CUT TO/ DISSOLVE TO
CUT TO refers to the movement from one scene to another. DISSOLVE TO is an old school screenwriting term which shows how an image or scene dissolves to another.
11. SMASH CUT TO
It is a very sharp transition from one scene to another mostly to effect abrupt emotional changes.
This is a screenwriting term written directly under a character’s name to emphasize on a particular emotion or action. An example from Inception:
ELDERLY JAPANESE MAN
Are you here to kill me?
13. O.S or O.C
Off Screen or Off Camera. It refers to characters that viewers can hear but cannot see. An example from Inception:
You know, beyond a doubt, that
you’re not in someone else’s dream.
14. FLASHBACK TO
FLASHBACK TO refers to previous events in a story.
It is a screenwriting term written to show scenes that are happening at the same time. A phone call conversation is a perfect example of an Intercut. Example from Forgotten Secret:
INT. OZOS’ HOUSE – HELEN’S BEDROOM – DAY – LATER
Helen reads on her bed. Her phone rings. She checks the caller. Dayo. She smiles and answers the call.
INT. DAYO’S CAR – SAME TIME (MOVING)
Dayo drives and talks into his phone.
How are you, pretty lady?
INTERCUT – PHONE CONVERSATION.
I’m great. What’s up?
I want to see you.
It is a screenwriting term which pauses a character’s dialogue or action.
Voice Over. It describes a dialogue written in first person narrative. A character tells a story that unfolds in front of the viewers. An example from Bad Moms:
Then you’ve got a sales pitch to
the TDI restaurant group…
18. Establishing Shot
This is an Arial shot which tells us where a general place a scene is unfolding. it could be a country, city, town, village or even a street.
19. Spec Script
A spec script is a screenplay that hasn’t been commissioned or approved yet by a studio or producer. It is entirely the screenwriter’s idea. A spec script can also mean a screenplay bought by a studio or producer but hasn’t been worked on yet to effect some desired changes for shooting.
20. Shooting Script
This the final draft of a screenplay. It has already been approved for shooting.
Do you know more screenwriting terms? Let us know in the comment section.