I challenge you to a dual! Formatting dual dialogue in your script

Sometimes you write dialogue so good, that two characters need to say it at the same time. In your script, this is accomplished using dual dialogue. Here's how to format your double-speak in Scrivener, Final Draft, and other screenwriting software.

The purpose of formatting dual dialogue is so that in your finished (printed or PDF) script, the simultaneous dialogue will appear side by side. Having two sets of the same words next to each other is a pretty solid visual cue.
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You can also handle dual speech by simply listing both character names for a single dialogue element. It's up to you.
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Dual dialogue formatting isn't only for duplicate dialogue. I use it for lyrics, when one character is singing different words, often to a countermelody. Here's an example from "Always Open," which you can listen to here.
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By the way... writing to a composer's countermelody and springing it on him at a rehearsal, doesn't always produce the reaction you hoped for. Just a l'il tip.

Formatting dual dialogue in Scrivener

To format dual dialogue in Scrivener, type the dialogue normally -- one character's name and lines below the other. Then highlight both sets of dialogue, and go to Format Formatting Preserve formatting. The dialogue will be tinted and enclosed in a dotted line.
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When you export your script or compile it for screenwriting software, the dialogue will be formatted side by side.

Formatting dual dialogue in Final Draft

Final Draft makes it simple. Highlight the dialogue and go to Format Dual Dialogue. Or hit -D. One important note about Final Draft, though. The formatted dual dialogue becomes one element, that cannot be edited. To edit the dialogue, you'll need to select the dual element and unformat it, same menu or shortcut.

Other apps

  • Montage doesn't support side-by-side. You'll have to use the Anne & Greg method.
  • Movie Magic Screenwriter uses columns. Highlight the first dialogue element and go to Format Dual Columns Left Column. Then do the second dialogue as Right Column. It doesn't display side-by-side as you type, but it will in the printed or PDF.
And there you have it. Enjoy hearing your words in stereo!
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I write plays and lyrics. I design for print and web. I blog about apps, Mac stuff, and writing.
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