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How to Format a Musical Script

A musical is distinct for its combination of spoken dialogue and musical lines.

Formatting a musical script follows a specific structure on font name and sizes used, line spacing and text margins and indentations. It helps make the script easier to read and scan from one part of a page to the next. Before writing the script, draft an outline first. This includes the breakdown of the acts and scenes, the different parts of the script and the approximate number of songs and the lyrics to be used for the play.

Format your document to have a single-space line spacing. However, use additional blank lines between the character tag and the stage directions.

Format your document to get the proper margins. These margins should be 1 inch on the top, 1 to 1.5 inch on the bottom, 1.5 inch on the left and 1 inch on the right.

Designate a Roman numeral when mentioning an act. For instance, the first act of the script should say “ACT I.” Meanwhile, use Arabic numerals when mentioning the scene number. For instance, the first scene should be written as “SCENE 1.” Each act typically has page dividers. Meanwhile, each scene must begin on a new page. Most plays follow the three-act structure. All act and scene designations should be written at the top of the first page of the said act or scene. They should always be in all caps.

Determine the left indentation and right margin for your scene directions. This part of the script describes the basic details of what the scene is all about, including the time and setting and the actions that happen from the beginning to the end of the scene. A scene direction must be indented 3.5 inches from the left. It must also use a 1-inch margin on the right.

Set the left indentation and right margin for your stage directions. This part of the script describes what happens on stage during a scene, including the entrances, exits, major movements and blocking of characters, technical changes and special effects. A stage direction must be indented 2 inches from the left. It must also use a 1-inch margin on the right. Enclose your stage directions in parentheses.

Set the left indentation and right margin for your character stage directions. This part of the script provides a very short description of what a particular character is doing in the scene. For instance, the short phrase that can be used for it can be something like “sing-song,” “whispering to wife” or “saying good-bye.” A character stage direction must be indented 3 inches from the left. It must also use a 1-inch margin on the right.

Write all first mentions of a character’s name in the stage directions in all caps. This way, it is easier for any reader to find the parts referring to a particular actor.

Set the left indentation and right margin for your character tags. A character tag refers to the first name or full name of the character as written right above the dialogue. It uses all capital letters for the name or the character description -- in case the character’s name is not established in the story. For instance, instead of the girl’s name, the girl may simply be addressed in the character tag as the “TALL GIRL.” A character tag must be indented 4 inches from the left. It is acceptable to center them, but many writers prefer to use the word processing program’s tab function so that all character tags have the same indentations.

For a scene where the character sings, put the lyrics of the song as dialogue, then use italicized format for the text. For these lyrics, you may keep the line breaks like how a poem is written on paper.

About the Author

Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.