Pouring some salt on Sluglines

So. Sluglines.

Okay, we all know what sluglines are (and if not, Google the term and find out!), but are we comfortable with using them? If you’re like me, probably not. But here are some things I’ve noticed.

In a lot of amateur scripts, sluglines are annoying things that you have to write to get to the good stuff (the action!). But sluglines can also be your friend.

Sluglines can be used to save time and energy describing things. For instance:

“INT. OFFICE – DAY

An office. Pens and pencils lie everywhere. Papers litter every surface. Overturned chairs clutter the floor. Smashed coffee cups decorate the desks… did I mention this was an office?”

Or you could just write:

“INT.  A VERY UNTIDY OFFICE – DAY”

Another way to save white space on the page (thereby writing less words and making your script more attractive to time-starved executives and producers) is to omit “DAY/NIGHT” after you’ve introduced an interior for the first time.

For example:

“INT. OFFICE BUILDING – DAY”

And then when you switch to another part of the building:

“INT. OFFICE BUILDING – CUBICLE”

And then for the next part of the same interior:

“BOSS’S OFFICE”

Although sometimes you might want to inform the reader that this is a slugline by inserting “INT.” at the start, depending on the number of sluglines you employ.

Putting all this together:

“INT. OFFICE BUILDING – DAY

A busy accountancy firm in full swing. Staccato chattering of TYPEWRITERS. Harried OFFICE WORKERS constantly trip over mounds of files scattered across the floor.

INT. BOSS’S OFFICE

MARTY, an office junior, quails before his red-faced BOSS. His boss’s tirade over, Marty turns tail and runs out through the

MAIN OFFICE

And into the

BATHROOM.”

Hardly Shakespeare. But you get the idea.

The main thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone. Although you could fill a library with everything that has been written on screenplay format, as long as you adhere to the basic principles concering the main elements (line spacing, indentation, capitals, etc) then I’m sure most experts would agree you’ll be fine. To make it easier, programs like Final Daft format these elements automatically. And if you’re not using screenwriting software by now, you should be. It will increase your productivity tenfold. The most important thing is that you do not present the reader with something they (a) struggle to read, and (b) are not familiar with in terms of style.

Hope this helps. As always, feel free to disagree!

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2 thoughts on “Pouring some salt on Sluglines

  1. Andrew Bellware

    I come from the world of “production” scripts, so one thing I like is knowing that whatever the name of a scene/location is will be the same throughout the script. For instance, if we’re going to have a “INT. A VERY UNTIDY OFFICE – DAY” we need to know we’re going to call it that every subsequent time we come back to it.
    Of course, if we never come back to it, we don’t have to worry! 😉

    Reply
  2. ldlagarino

    Good advice. I’m taking a shot at my first screenplay. I know about correct indentations, and I’m using them, but when on WordPress, when I click publish, everything comes out on the left margin. I’m not terribly concerned about it, because I’m typing copies of each installment out as I write them, so the format looks somewhat the way it should. I expect to make mistakes, so any bit of feedback is very helpful. I don’t mind revising and refining. Right now, I’m more focused on the story. Try to keep it interesting.

    Reply

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