Saturday 3 July 2010

Oh my Word...

As well as writing sitcom scripts, I do script editing, especially sketch shows. I usually enjoy this role, especially as it involves liaising with new writers and writers who are just starting out. When you read something good and/or original, it's great to be able to pass on good feedback and encourage people. I've had at least half a dozen people in the last couple of years in which I've been able to write emails along the lines of 'Well done, there's some brilliant, original comedy here. You're really hit the brief and surpassed it. Thank you. Keep going. You will succeed. etc'.

The downside of script editing is discovering how hopeless people are at using Word, and if often surprises me that calling people on this doesn't go down very well.

But I would say that if you are a writer, or want to be one, you need something to write on. That thing is usually Microsoft Word, unless you're writing feature films. You will spend thousands of hours of your life using Word, so why not try finding out how it actually works? So that you're not using the space bar so that things end up in the right place (this is roughly how my dad, a farmer his whole life, does his emails and documents)?

There is, I would like to argue, an onus on the writer to be able to use his tools effectively. Sit and play with it till you've figured it out. Go on a course. Actually buying Word in the first place might be a start. It's really not that expensive, and sending non-Word files looks pretty shonky, I'd say. If I, as a script editor, want to, er, edit, I have to unpick the document and reformat it myself, which often taking ages.

Is Word really all that hard to use? Are hanging indents really as baffling as some seem to suggest? Is the Page Break a thing of great mystery? If you spend a little time with Word, you'll discover it is a very powerful tool that can make your life easier. I have a number of templates set up that make it feel like Final Draft, so that you're typing names, which go straight to dialogue formats and back to names again. Time spent in the early days when you're time rich and cash poor will reap dividends.

And we can all be grateful that we never have to use a chain harrow, a combine harvester or a threshing machine.


  1. Here's Dan Tetsell's excellent 'How To Set Out A Sketch In Word' guide.

  2. Oops!