6 Treatment Formatting Tips 1 comment

Hand emerging from paper

If you are writing a screenplay treatment as part of the script pitching or development process, you’ll want to make your format easy to skim for busy executives. These treatment formatting tips focus on readability so your format works for you, not against you.

6 Treatment Formatting Tips

1. Choose A Legible Font

You can use any font you want within reason to write a treatment. That means any legible, professional font: no comic sans, please). This news may come as a shock to screenwriters who are used to being locked into Courier 12; you can write your treatment in Courier 12, too, if it reduces your anxiety. Terry Rossio likes to write treatments in Palatino. Classic fonts like Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman are also safe choices.

2. Break it Up with Line Breaks

You may wish to separate different story sections (e.g., by sequence, location, or subplot) with an extra line space, to make the treatment more readable but not add to the length. (Thanks to Debbie Moon for this tip.) Terry Rossio uses story section, with headings, in his treatment for Sinbad.

3. Break it Up with Titles

You can break up the treatment with chapter-style titles, like Terry Rossio does in his treatment for Godzilla, to make it easier to skim.

4. Format Titles for Readability

If you use titles, underline OR bold them but not both, and don’t use a colon at the end of a title. (Formatting conventions have changed since Rossio wrote his treatments in 1994.)

5. Go For the Flow

You can skip breaks and headings and aim for an immersive reading experience instead. Terry Rossio does this in the treatment for The Mask of Zorro.

6. Format for the Reader

In all formatting choices, serve the reader: make it as easy as possible for a busy reader to skim your story and make a good impression.

Bonus: Examples of Treatments

Proper Treatment – This article by Terry Rossio on how to write a treatment includes links to several sample treatments and is well worth reading for anyone tackling a treatment.

Treatments, Outlines & More at Simply Scripts – Large collection of treatments.

What other treatment formatting tips or tricks can you share? How do you like to format your own treatments? What formatting choices make treatments easy for you to read?

If you write professional treatments in a field other than screenwriting, what kinds of treatment formatting conventions are the norm in your field?

What other sources for sample treatments can you recommend? Which treatments stand out as great examples you like to refer to?

This article is the seventh installment in a series on writing treatments. The previous installment is Six Treatment Formatting Tips. Coming up next week is “Can You Copyright A Treatment?” If you don’t want to miss an installment, sign up for our newsletter!

One thought on “6 Treatment Formatting Tips

  • Mark Walker

    Great tips Shaula and it’s nice to have lots of flexibility around treatments! I tend not to use section titles, although I do find myself inserting a sub-heading to separate my ACTs – or at least roughly where I feel they are in the story.

    I also, often, tend to go for double line spacing.

    I don’t know how others feel about double-spaced typing, or how it would sit with professional readers/producers reading a “formal” treatment but, when I am working on the story, I find it helps my reading speed and affords me plenty of white space to annotate my story as I am rewriting it, especially if I am reading a hard copy.

    It may not work for everyone and it may even reduce reading speeds for some, but it helps me!

    In terms of speed-reading, I wonder how it would work if the treatment page was split into two columns? We all know why newspapers are written in columns. It reduces the need for the eyes to move left and right when reading – we can just scan down. Would that be too fast for a treatment? Would it be too quirky for a producer?

    Don’t think I’ll test that just yet! :-)

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