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What Are The Differences Between Script Writing and Screenwriting?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/12/2010

Script writing and screenwriting are usually used interchangeably, especially by people not directly involved with making movies. To understand the terms better, here are the differences between script writing and screenwriting.

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    Script Writing and Screenwriting People who are not directly involved in making movies are not really aware that screenwriting and script writing are two different terms. People usually use these terms interchangeably, oblivious of the difference between script writing and screenwriting. For a better understanding of the differences between the two terms, let us first define what they are.

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    Script Writing

    Script writing is the process of writing dialogue which can be used in talk shows, news programs, sports broadcasts and infotainment programs. It is also correct to call writing a script for a movie or a narrative TV show script writing, but the script usually involves more than just character descriptions and dialogue. Script writing doesn't involve discussing the visuals of a TV show or a movie. This is a more specific type of script writing which is called screenwriting.

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    Screenwriting is also a process of writing a script, but this is only used for filmmaking that have narrative elements that involve dramatic elements and other components of the film that need to be seen on the screen to serve the overall narrative like the setting, the lighting and movements. Screenwriting provides the visuals that complement what the characters are doing and saying. The mood accentuates the drama or humor that the characters are executing based on the script.

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    The Differences

    The differences between script writing and screenwriting all boils down to the fact that script writing only involves what is being said by and the description of the characters in the movie or TV show. It doesn't describe the setting and it doesn't provide the mood of what is being seen on the screen. Screenwriting builds upon the script to give a more vivid picture of what's happening on screen, serving the development and construction of the larger narrative.

    Screenwriting deals more with how the story is going to be perceived by describing where the characters are, what they are doing, what they are saying and everything else that's happening around them. It may not even include character dialogues to accomplish this.

    Script writing provides a narrative like a movie or a TV show with a blue print of the story. The script is what gives the characters what to say, but it doesn't involve giving them the proper mood or setting. The script usually goes from the script writing process to the screenwriting process, but sometimes, it can go the other way around. An idea for a movie or TV show may come first before the characters get their respective voices.

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    Proper Use

    If you don't want to confuse people during conversations about writing for movies or TV shows, remember to use screenwriting for them because this term already involves character dialogue. Any other form of entertainment that uses scripts like talk shows, news programs, musical plays or radio plays, it is more appropriate to use script writing. If it doesn't require describing visuals, it's safe to say that it is script writing.

    You may also want to learn the differences between a playwright and screenwriting.