Using Parentheticals

Have you ever read a script and wondered what a parenthetical is and how to use it? The answer is quite simple! Parentheticals, also known as wrylies, are used under character names as a way to indicate how someone says their dialogue.

For example:



Don't worry. Everything's going to be okay.

It's perfectly fine to use parentheticals in your script, but be careful you're not doing it too much. Here's a few things to keep in mind.

You are the writer, not the director

At the end of the day, you are the writer and your job isn't to direct on the page. The directors job is to set the scene and allow the actor portraying the role to bring the character to life.

However, if  there's a scene where there's a group of people having a conversation, then a parenthetical would be useful. For example:


(to Rachel)

Oh my God! Those shoes are so cute!


After seeing the 20 percent discount, I couldn't help myself!

(turns to Betty)

What do you think?


Totally! You have a great taste in style!

Of course there's other ways you can indicate who is talking to who in the conversation besides using parentheticals. For example, after Rachel responds to Karen, an action line could've been placed and her line of dialogue could've continued so now the reader knows she's talking to Betty. 

Use parentheticals for strong actions

If you really want to use a parentheticals, you want to make sure it's not used for minor actions. For example, (biting their lip) is weak and not strong enough. Like I've mentioned before, you're directing on the page and telling someone how to act or feel in that moment.

Even if you are going to direct the script, you still have to allow the actor to portray the character the best way they can.

Don't use parentheticals for camera movement or sound effects

This is pretty simple. As a writer, you should already know not to use camera movements in your spec script and sound effects should be used in action lines and in all caps.

Be careful how often you use parentheticals

By now this should be a no brainer. If you use parentheticals often throughout your script, the reader is going to lose interest quickly. However, if you rarely use parentheticals, the reader could also get bored and lose interest quickly. My main tip, use them sparingly.

Sometimes when I write, I don't use a parenthetical unless I feel it's going to be useful or important.

Got any questions? Feel free to let me know! More than happy to help! 

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