Bela Lampert

Optioned Screenwriter / Yoga Instructor

Writing in Microsoft Word

A while ago, a friend of mine asked me for some screenwriting software advice, she wasn’t sure which software to choose for her script.

I gave her a couple of options, trying to explain what the differences are and also mentioning that I like applications that support fountain because it is a format with high compatibility, so you can move easily from one software to the other.

Then, she didn’t mention the topic for quite a while and when she finished writing her scenes it turned out she had written them all in Microsoft Word.

When I asked her why she did that, trying to understand the reasoning behind it, she told me that since I had told her that fountain was compatible with basically all other writing applications, she could choose just any writing software she wanted, and easily convert that to a fountain file.

But file compatibility doesn’t work that way. If you want the compatibility of fountain (or any other file format, fountain is just an example in this case), you need to write in that format!

Compatibility doesn’t mean that any other format can easily be converted into the compatible format.

It means that you need to write in the format that has the inter–compatibility.

What happened with my friend was that she had no clue how to get her scenes out of Microsoft Word and into proper screenplay formatting, of course. She was a new writer and that’s fine. When you’re starting out, you don’t know those things.

That’s all right.

And I, feeling kind of bad for her because obviously my advice had not been clear enough, reformatted her scenes to help her out.

There are couple of lessons I learned from that experience.

One, make it clear that if you want to have compatibility you need to write in the format that has the compatibility. If you want the compatibility of fountain, you need to write in fountain. If you want the compatibility of Final Draft, you need to write an Final Draft format. And so on. Just to be very clear on this, this time.

Two, if a new writer asks me what screenwriting software to choose in the beginning, my advice is: don’t use Microsoft Word!

I have heard from screenwriters (at least one professional screenwriter among them) that they do write in Microsoft Word and successfully so. So, apparently it is possible if you know what you’re doing. (And also, in the case of the professional screenwriter, I’m not even sure if he was only referring to having his notes in Microsoft Word. I don’t think you write the script itself they are also.)

There are enough free screenwriting applications out there. Don’t use Microsoft Word!

Let me say that again. Don’t use Microsoft Word for screenwriting!

If you want to see which apps are great for screenwriting and could be the right choice for you, take a look at my “Netflix” for screenwriting software and writing processes (click button below):