Screenplays and Scripts – Understand the Difference

Audience of the products of entertainment industries all over the world and people who are aspiring entertainment industry wannabes and workers if not the professionals in almost all parts of the globe have developed the habit of using the terms screenplay and script interchangeably with the later one most frequently used. This, however, is an erroneous custom and needs to be changed as to depict our correct understanding of the two terms as well as leading the people who are unconnected to the industry terms to quote the terms appropriately.

Let's begin to understand the difference between screenplays and scripts by having a look at the definitions of the terms used to refer to the writing tasks of the two types of entertainment industry documents.

Screenwriting (not Screen Writing):

Screenwriting, sometimes written as Screen Writing, which is no more a valid method of writing the term in almost all of the Hollywood but in few other parts of the world, is the term given to the task of screenplay writing.

Scriptwriting or Script Writing:

Scriptwriting or Script Writing is the term given to the task of script writing.

What most people should not do, but do is confuse screenwriting with scriptwriting or script writing. Although screenwriting and scriptwriting are not totally different, they are still two different mediums of media writing.

A script for a talk show, news, infotainment program, etc, whether on TV or radio, cannot be termed as a screenplay. On the other hand, a screenplay of a movie or TV program that is presented in a dramatic narrative with scenes and dialogues can be termed as a script. Why? Because a screenplay is a form of script and not opposite is the case.

Here is what Film Terms glossary of the Babylon dictionary says about a screenplay:

A document text in a specific format which contains the dramatic elements of the film, as well as indications of other elements such as setting, light values, action, and, in general, everything which it is essential to see on the screen from the point of view of the whole narrative; in its relationship to the completed film, a screenplay is sometimes described as being analogous to a blue print of a structure. The analogy is true up to a point, but in fact there is no other kind of text which has the specific characteristics and constraints of a screenplay. And no other text which, when successful at attaining its goal – ie, the finished film – effectively ceases to exist except as a historical and critical curiosity.

And here is what the Babel glossary says about a script:

A general term for a written work (and with special reference to the entertainment industry) detailing story, setting, and dialogue. A script may take the form of a screenplay, shooting script, lined script, continuity script, or a spec script.

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