How to Apply Some Hollywood Screenwriting Tricks to Your Email Correspondence

Robin Tidrick

January 17, 2014

Want to apply some Hollywood screenwriting tricks to your boring everyday email correspondence? You’re reading the right blog.

Below is a list of suggestions (in no particular order) from a former Hollywood screenwriter (yours truly) that can help make your email correspondence easier to read, more to the point and, maybe, not so boring?

  1.  Use only one subject per email. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).
  2. No more than 3 lines (4 at most) per subject/idea. One of the reasons the movie The Sixth Sense was made is that the screenplay was EASY to read with lots of white space. Nobody likes to read a big paragraph of text.
  3. Say what you mean. No subtext. Subtext is what makes characters and dialogue interesting. When characters say one thing, but we all know they really mean something else, the reader gets confused. This kind of jargon has no place in our everyday email correspondence, so save it for the movies.
  4. Less is More. After you have written your “first draft” go back and, if you can, cut it in half (at least reduce 20-30 percent). It takes a bit of practice but your reader will appreciate your lack of words (there is a downside to doing this … I can no longer read fiction or novels because they are too wordy for me).
  5. It is not the writing but the re-writing. If you normally write in Outlook try writing a “letter” first. When it is completed, read it to make sure it makes sense and says just enough and no more. Copy and paste it into you actual message and re-read again (imagine you are the person reading it). Make any necessary changes.
  6. No assumptions. Don’t assume your reader knows anything about what you are talking about.
  7. Say what you mean – mean what you say. Be clear. Be short. Screenwriting has been likened to Haiku poetry.
  8. Use your spell and grammar check. They are not always correct but do give a final polish to your writing by eliminating most spelling and grammar errors.
  9. Write in the present tense. Write like it is happening now. This makes your writing stronger and more memorable.
  10. Just the facts ma’am. Leave your emotions out of it. If you are angry or upset go ahead and say what you feel. Just don’t send it yet. Wait a day or so and read what you wrote. You might want to change it a bit since you have had a little distance from it now, and maybe a better perspective.
  11. Write in your own “voice.” Your reader will appreciate that it is from a real human being, which will shine through if you truly write from within yourself.
  12. Every time you send a copy/paste email re-read it and tweak it a bit. After a time away from it – sometimes you have a different perspective on the situation that you did before and can express it in a better way. Remember, re-write.

These ideas won’t necessarily get you a big Hollywood studio deal but your email may be more fun and everybody who receives it will probably appreciate your efforts.


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