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  • I’ll Put A Spell On You

    July 3rd, 2009

    Quite a few writers lately have asked me if typos and grammatical mistakes are a big enough reason for me to pass on a project. My quick answer is YES. I then ask them: “Why do you ask? Do you intend on writing something with lots of typos?” It almost seems like a silly question for a writer to ask. Are you worried that you can’t spell? Many of history’s greatest writers have stated publicly that they are horrible spellers or never passed a grammar class. Well, that’s okay because guess what – there’s a program that can help you with that.

    One of my biggest personal pet peeves is spelling and grammar. Maybe part of that is because my mother is an English teacher and when I used bad grammar, she’d give me the eye. But the real reason is two-fold:

    1. It distracts me. It takes me out of the story and the writing because now I’m counting and correcting spelling instead of connecting to your characters or trying to figure out the big picture of your script.

    2. It tells me that you are a lazy and sloppy writer, and I don’t like to work with lazy writers. It takes so very little time to run a spell check or grammar check and you, the writer, should be going over every word of your script with a fine-toothed comb before you submit it anywhere – even to a script consultant.

    However, never in the history of screenwriting has a script been passed on because it had one or two misspelled words. Okay, maybe Scott Rudin did it once, but it was a busy day. So when I say typos, I don’t mean a couple. I mean if there are one or two typos on EVERY page (or every 5 pages)…then yeah, I might pass because I don’t think you worked hard enough to make it look professional.

    The bottom line is – with the myriad of reasons executives and analysts have to pass on your script, why would you want to give them one more? Especially something you have full control over. You can’t control what else they have in development or what genre they are looking for, but you can make sure that your script looks professional. If I find two scripts in the same genre that I love equally, which script do you think I’m going to want to read again and again – the one with typos and mis-wordings and grammatical mistakes on every page (which also tells me they will be there in all subsequent drafts), or the one that reads clean and easy and keeps my head in the story?

    Do yourself a favor…never ask an exec the question about typos again and instead, ask the following question of yourself: “Is my script the best representation of my ability as a writer?” And then make sure you spelled the question right.

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