Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gross Dialogue Tip

Trust me - the following is not a commercial of any sort. This is about dialogue, so bear with me for a moment (or just skip down to the very last few sentences if you're in a hurry!)...


Have you tried this new product?

It was featured in a recent SHARK TANK episode.

Now, in your head, how do you pronounce it?

Some will say
“Pro-nerg” as Mr. Wonderful did.

Some will avoid pronunciation. It’s all letters:

The correct pronunciation is “Pro N.R.G.” Get it? Pro Energy.

So why isn’t it spelled
 Pro N.R.G.?

ING Direct had fun with this problem in their early marketing, always making it to look as if ING was the end of a longer word being blocked somehow. Meanwhile, they insist now to be called
“I.N.G. Direct” - so why are they not spelling it like that!?

The ambiguity and confusion hurts marketing. Ambiguity is not good in marketing and can be disastrous in screenplays.

And clarity is why screenwriters (and novelists) must spell things out in dialogue, including numbers, symbols, initialisms, abbreviations, etc.

But it’s only ONE reason why. In screenplay, the other reason is to keep the truth of the page. One scripted page equals one minute of screen time. Reducing
“seventy-five smackaroos” to “$75,000” does not represent the time it takes to say it, and it does not make it clear how to pronounce/phrase it.

Which indicates a third reason to spell out things in dialogue in screenplays: How things are said reveals your character's voice:

mobster: seventy-five big ones
banker: seventy-five thousand dollars
Joe Schmo: seventy-five thousand bucks
IRS form: "$75,000" 

And the fourth reason is clarity. In dialogue, the "IT girl" would be a shout about that girl who possesses the X factor. The "I.T. girl" is the girl who works in the Information Technology Department.


IN DIALOGUE, always spell out your initialisms AS THEY ARE PRONOUNCED:
F.B.I., O.K. (or okay), T.V., etc.

Acronyms are a whole different animal. Pronunciation trumps all, so there is NO punctuation: MADD, VISA, INTERPOL, etc.

To be clear when you have a word that could go either way, your actor will know what to do depending on how/if you punctuate:
ASAP, A.S.A.P., AWOL, A.W.O.L, R-O-L-A-I-D-S, etc.