“Wordweight,” as I call it, is the amount of black ink relative to the white of the page it’s printed on. When deciding how to print your work, there’s a common expression that’s a good rule of thumb to follow: “more white than black.”
When a pile of scripts lands on the desk of a reader or a producer’s assistant, it’s their job to read through the seemingly endless pile of words, providing coverage notes for the producer to look over. Those notes are what determine if the producer will take an interest in the script and decide to read it in full.
When readers approach this daunting pile, they generally decide what to read first based on genre, title, and first impression. This first impression is made by simply flipping through the pages to get a feel of the wordweight of the script.
In a normally formatted screenplay, you can have as many as 250-300 words per page. After indentations and dialogue, it will resemble more of an epic speech than an actual script. At this density, your script looks like a LOT of work to read. Chances are the person flipping through will think to themselves, “I’ll save that one for later..”
Your goal is to target 150-180 words per page. At this wordweight, the readers eyes can relax and take in the text with greater ease. Even though the word count of the entire script hasn’t changed, it will seem like a faster read, which will make it more enjoyable for the poor person who reads through these things day in and day out.
Once you’ve reformatted your script, you’ll experience the secondary benefit of this rule: a new perspective for assessing your own word economy. You’ll notice long sentences (especially those describing actions) standing out, and they can and should be simplified. With fresh eyes, you’ll be able to go back and make your script a lean, mean story machine.
After you’ve approached your scripts this way a couple of times, you’ll find all of them losing their wordweight, becoming sleeker and sexier. And hopefully, you’ll be getting more attention from the producers you’ve been dying to work with.