No Grammar Police here. This one goes out merely as a public service. You learned this stuff in 7th grade, so why I do read so many scripts that mistake it’s and its? You spend six months writing a phenomenal story only to get tripped up by mistaking their and they’re?
- Titles are capitalized when it refers to an actual person
The President would be capped in your screenplay. So would a Congressman, the Plumber, even Mom and Dad.
- Beware of homonyms
They’re/Their/There. “They’re” is the contraction of “they are”. “Their means it belongs to them. “There” is a place. They’re going there with their parrots?!”
Too/To/Two. “Too” means also. “To” is the opposite of from or modifies a verb into the future. “Two” is the #2. If the two of you are going to Florida, please bring me, too.
Then/Than. “Then” means sequence, that something happens first. “Than” indicates comparison. He’s heavier than I am. Jimmy moved to Green Bay, then I did.
It’s/Its. “It’s” is “it is”. “Its” indicates possession. For all its grand design and fabulous decor, it’s a shame we’ve been stuck on this Blue Line train for an hour.
- Watch out for frequently confused words
Which/That. “Which” indicates choice. Which one? “That” is just one, no choice. Of the two flights, that’s the one which will get us to Costa Rica faster.
Farther/Further. “Farther” means more than far. Further just means more, not distance. Please, how much further? I can’t run any farther, I really can’t.
Lay/Lie. Lie means recline. Lay means to place. Lie down on the bed. Lay the pepperoni pizza on the table.
- Use contractions
“It’s”, not it is. “Can’t”, not cannot. Dialogue flows better using these.
- Commas signal a pause
There are certain words that almost always have a comma when at the beginning or end of a sentence. “Yes, I mean you. No, I don’t mean her. I meant him, too. Right, that’s all of them.” A sentence rarely has more than two commas. Where it would cause too many pauses in a sentence, excessive commas may be dropped. “Gabrielle, you too.” Note that it’s not “Gabrielle, you, too.”
Another use of commas is to separate description from a person or thing: “This is even better than being kissed by Jordan, the cute trombonist.” You know it needs a comma because it’s a contraction of two sentences. “This is even better than being kissed by Jordan. He’s the cute trombonist.”
- Apostrophes signal possession or contraction, not plural
“Larry’s friends can’t drive. They grew up on a commune in the 60s with no cars. His friends’ hippie parents went green, man.” Note that the apostrophe comes after the ‘s’ when it’s plural and the second ‘s’ is dropped.
Also note that “its” is a pronoun possessive adjective, like my, your, his, her, our, their…none of which have apostrophes.
- Use present tense
Everything happens in the now in a screenplay. “Trinity explodes through the window and tumbles down the stairs.” Not, “After Trinity had fallen through the window and tumbled down the stairs…” If there’s an ed on the end of your verbs, there’s a problem.
- Avoid run-on sentences
A sentence with fifteen or twenty words is probably a run-on sentence. Consider breaking it into two sentences.