Proper grammer and speling is important for writers of allages and levels if they want to be more better writers. If you aspire to be a professional writer anddidn’t notice the errors in the previous sentence, you’ve got a problem (or youbetter have a good copy editor). Thisweek’s blog entry is not so much a lesson in grammar and dusting off your copyof Strunk & White; it is more about the importance of proofing your workbefore turning it in to someone who can either make or break your script.
I gained some perspective on this topic when I was asked tohelp teach the basics of screenwriting to an English class at a local highschool as part of our YoungFilmmakers Program. The studentswere required to write a short screenplay for us to review and narrow down toone script which the kids would later produce. The goal for the program is not only to help improve the students’writing skills but to also provide them a real world experience similar to thatof a working screenwriter in the industry (of course on a much smaller scale,not as ruthless, and without illegal substances). Many of the kids submitted brilliant storiesthat were unfortunately marred by distractingly bad grammar, punctuation,spelling, and not to mention poor use of present progressive. What we asked the kids to think about was:“Would you feel confident submitting this script to a studio?” We gave the kids another opportunity to proofand refine their scripts before making our final decision. In the studio system or a screenplaycompetition, there are no second chances like this once you’ve submitted ascript.
Even in this age of text messaging and auto-correct, this issomething not unique to today’s youth but to amateur writers in general. I’ve come across many scripts in thecompetition with great stories but with poor grammar and spelling. This is not necessarily a deal breaker for ascript to advance in our competition; the quality of the story and writingalways come first but the last thing you want to do is annoy your reader. Your words should flow easily for the readeras if they’re going to fly off the page. There is such a thing as spell check but it’s always best to have a newset of eyes copy edit your work before submitting it somewhere. So just like those kids in class, askyourself, “Do I feel confident submitting this script to a studio?”
Bad grammar may or may not make or break your script but, inan industry where thousands of scripts are passed around, why not make yoursthe most polished it can be? The lastthing you want is for your first impression to be the last impression. Even though some Hollywoodproducers may still act like they’re in high school, it doesn’t mean you haveto.
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director