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Script vs. Screenplay: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 16, 2023
A script is a general term for written work prepared for performance, while a screenplay specifically refers to the script for a film or television show.

Key Differences

Script and screenplay are both related to the realm of entertainment, but they cater to slightly different needs. A script is a broad term that encompasses any written document designed to guide a performance. This performance could be a play, a television show, a radio program, or even a video game. It provides the dialogue, instructions, and sometimes even technical directions for performers. On the other hand, a screenplay is a type of script written specifically for movies or television shows. It not only includes dialogue but also detailed descriptions of scenes, settings, and often camera angles.
While all screenplays are scripts, not all scripts are screenplays. A script for a theatrical play would not be called a screenplay, but rather a play or stage script. This distinction is crucial because different rules and conventions govern the writing of screenplays compared to other types of scripts. For instance, the formatting, structure, and even the way actions and dialogues are presented in a screenplay are unique, aiming to provide a visual narrative for a film or TV production.
Script, as a term, offers more flexibility. It can pertain to any medium, whether it's for a live performance, a radio broadcast, or an online video. The primary goal of a script is to serve as a blueprint for the performers and directors, guiding them on what to say and do. Screenplay, with its specificities, is tailored for the silver screen. It is meticulously crafted, keeping in mind the visual and auditory elements of film, ensuring that the narrative flows seamlessly on screen.
In essence, the script is a foundational element of many performance-based arts. It captures the essence of a story, dialogue, and often the emotional journey of characters. Screenplay, as a subset of scripts, carries the added responsibility of visually narrating a story, ensuring that every scene, dialogue, and transition works in harmony to create a cinematic experience.

Comparison Chart


Written work for a performance.
Script specifically for films or TV shows.


Can be for theater, radio, TV, video games, etc.
Exclusively for movies and television.


Includes dialogue and performance instructions.
Includes dialogue, scenes, settings, and often camera directions.


Varies based on the medium.
Has a specific industry-standard format.


Used across multiple entertainment mediums.
Used in the filmmaking and television production industry.

Script and Screenplay Definitions


A guide for actors, narrators, or broadcasters.
The radio host had to stick closely to the script during the live broadcast.


A script written for a film or television show.
The screenplay for the movie won several awards.


A written work detailing the dialogue and actions for a performance.
The director was pleased with the new script for the play.


A written work following industry standards for film or TV production.
He took a course on screenplay formatting to perfect his draft.


A set of instructions for a computer program.
He wrote a script to automate the data entry process.


A narrative formatted specifically for cinematic interpretation.
The director's vision brought the screenplay to life.


A particular style of writing or typeface.
She practiced her cursive script daily.


The foundation for visual storytelling in cinema.
The strength of the movie lies in its compelling screenplay.


The written text of a stage play, broadcast, or movie.
The lead actor spent nights memorizing his lines from the script.


A detailed written account of scenes, dialogues, and actions in a movie.
She submitted her screenplay to several production companies.




The script for a movie, including descriptions of scenes and some camera directions.


A style of writing with cursive characters.


A script for a movie or a television show.


To write a screenplay.


A script for a film including dialogue and descriptions of characters and sets


What is the origin of the word "script"?

"Script" originates from the Latin word "scriptum," which means "a writing, book; law, line, mark."

What is a script?

A script is a written document that provides the text or instructions for a performance, which could be a play, film, broadcast, or other presentations.

How about the origin of "screenplay"?

"Screenplay" is a compound word with "screen" (referring to movies) and "play" (a dramatic work), indicating a script for a film.

How does a screenplay differ from a script?

A screenplay is specifically written for a film or television show, detailing scenes, dialogue, and sometimes camera directions, while a script can refer to any written performance text.

Who typically writes screenplays?

Screenwriters or scriptwriters craft screenplays.

Why is formatting important in a screenplay?

Proper formatting ensures clarity, helps gauge screen time, and meets industry standards, making it easier for filmmakers to read and produce.

How do scripts and screenplays contribute to collaborative work?

They guide various departments, from actors to sound engineers, ensuring everyone works towards the same vision.

How do scripts vary across mediums (e.g., radio vs. film)?

Each medium has its conventions. Radio scripts focus on sound cues and dialogue, while film scripts incorporate visual elements.

Can someone adapt a screenplay into a stage play script?

Yes, but changes would be required to fit the medium's limitations and strengths, such as fewer locations or visual effects in stage plays.

Do all films start with a screenplay?

While many do, some films are improvised or developed from a basic treatment rather than a full screenplay.

Can scripts exist for non-dramatic performances?

Yes, scripts can be written for a range of performances, including speeches, radio shows, and instructional videos.

How long is a typical screenplay?

A standard feature-length screenplay is usually between 90 and 120 pages.

What's the primary purpose of a script?

A script serves as a blueprint for performers, directors, and other crew members to bring a narrative or message to life.

Can a screenplay be considered a script?

Yes, a screenplay is a type of script, but not all scripts are screenplays.

Are there software tools for screenplay writing?

Yes, popular software like Final Draft and Celtx provide specialized tools for screenplay formatting and writing.

What's a spec screenplay?

A spec (speculative) screenplay is written without a commission or buyer in mind, hoping it will be sold later.

Can a novel be turned into a screenplay?

Yes, many movies are adaptations of novels, requiring the transformation of the book into a screenplay format.

What's a shooting script?

A shooting script is a version of the screenplay used during production, often with added technical details like shot directions.

What is the role of dialogue in a screenplay?

Dialogue reveals character, advances the plot, and conveys subtext. It's integral to a screenplay.

What elements are unique to a screenplay?

Unique elements of screenplays include scene headings, character names centered above dialogue, and specific margin and spacing rules.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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