Parentheticals are those pieces of information that writers place inside of parentheses in a script. They’re also called “wrylies,” and they can make or break your script.

Parentheticals are used to convey information about the delivery of dialogue, often providing direction for actors as to how to say lines, or for the audience as to what parts of the scene look or sound like.

A parenthetical is the term given to any comment that appears in the margin of a script, usually beside a character’s name.

It can be used to convey extra information about a character’s actions, appearance or personality traits.

At times, these parentheticals will be written as “off screen” or “voice over” as an indication that the character is not physically onscreen and/or using their voice.

Parentheticals are not always used in television scripts and when they do appear, they are generally kept to a minimum.

In fact, it is often advisable to avoid them entirely!


What Is a parenthetical

What Is a parenthetical in a script?

Parentheticals are a form of stage direction in screenwriting. They’re often used to clarify the dialogue and explain the context.

They’re also used to indicate a character’s reaction to what another character has said, or to impart information that isn’t found elsewhere in the script.

Trying to convey this kind of meaning through just spoken words can be difficult for actors, so it is important for the writer to make clear what is being conveyed by using parentheticals.

The parentheticals frequently appear in parentheses (hence their name), although they can also be in square brackets or sometimes even curly brackets if the writer feels it is necessary for clarity.



What Is A Parenthetical In A Script?

Parentheticals in a script are those little notes either written in parentheses or as footnotes that seem to be everywhere.

So what exactly are they?

They are instructions to the actor – reading from top to bottom, parenthetical or footnotes at the bottom (so you don’t end up with a word like “is” on two lines), and reading numbers and words in the order they appear.

It’s important for your scene partner to understand what the parentheticals mean. It’s also important to know how many there are going to be so that you can make sure you give them proper emphasis so that they don’t get lost in the audience laughter.

But most important is being familiar with the content of the parentheticals so that you don’t have to be told what comes next.

When using parentheticals, it is important that you make sure that you not only choose a place where they are acceptable but also use them in a way that makes sense and doesn’t confuse the reader or the actor.


One of the most common reasons why an actor will have a problem with a parenthetical is that they try to assign their own meaning to it, rather than acting out what it actually says.

It’s important for both writer and actor alike to remember that these are things that are being said, not necessarily things that are being done.

If a character reacts emotionally to something else which has been said.

There are also some other types of parentheticals that can help make your script more clear.

These include:

CUT TO: Just let everyone know it’s time to change location, especially if it’s going to be an abrupt cut.

CUT BACK TO: Reverse of above – let everyone know that you’re coming back to where you left off before the cut.

What Is A Parenthetical In A Script Used For?

Parentheticals in scripts are characters who have an extremely minor role and receive no lines. They may appear in scenes but not speak, or they may be present but not heard.

Sometimes, however, a parenthetical will have a line or two, even though it is technically a background character; this is more for the sake of giving that character something to do/say instead of having them just standing there.

Trolls are often used as parentheticals for this reason. In the Battle for Azeroth cinematic, for example, there were multiple trolls milling about Darkshore near Anduin after Jaina left him to meet with Sylvanas.

The trolls were probably supposed to be background characters that could have been removed without any meaningful change to the scene, but they were given lines -“Ehh- heh- I think she likes you…”- to give them something to say while they stood around waiting for something relevant to happen.

In some cases, a small group of characters may be given a single line or two of dialogue each (though not necessarily all at once) to make them seem like they’re doing or saying something when they’re really just there to provide atmosphere.


What Is A Screenplay Parenthetical?

A parenthetical is a small word, phrase or clause in a sentence that is surrounded by parenthesis or brackets. It provides additional information, often clarifying something in the sentence.

Parenthetical can be used to explain an abbreviation, identify something that is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence or distinguish it from another similar item. 

It can also be used for an appositive phrase, which explains the noun with which it’s paired.


Words like however and moreover are sometimes considered parentheticals because they are often followed by a comma, but they do not always get placed between brackets or parentheses if they do not clarify something in the sentence.

A bracketed or parenthetical phrase is always set off from the rest of the sentence by commas on either side, but a bracketed or parenthetical word will stand alone without them if it’s clear that it’s meant to be explanatory and not part of the main clause.

Parentheticals should be set off with commas, but you don’t have to put commas before them unless they’re at the beginning of a sentence: “I went to [the store], [where I bought some apples].” 

How Do You Write A Parenthetical In A Screenplay?

How exactly do you write a parenthetical in a screenplay? This is a question that I am asked pretty frequently, and it is actually quite simple.

TIP: It is important to note that the parenthetical should be written as if the information it contains were actually being spoken by the character, not as if the character were thinking the information.

The parentheses are not meant to imply that certain information is “in the character’s head,” but rather to provide information to the reader that might not otherwise be communicated in the dialogue.

TIP: The parenthetical is mainly used when a character might make a reference to something outside of their environment or when they might give some kind of indication about what they are thinking without verbalizing it (such as thoughts on another character’s attractiveness, or something like that).

However, the parenthetical can be used for any type of additional information.

TIP: In order for a parenthetical to work, it has to flow naturally from what comes before it. If you can’t make it sound like “one conversation” with your line, then you probably need to rewrite it.

Sometimes writers will throw in parentheses if they don’t know what else to write for a particular line. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Dialogue Parenthetical?

Parentheticals are used in fiction writing to clarify what a person is thinking or saying. They are also used to avoid having to repeat information that the reader is likely to already know.

The use of parentheticals can aid in creating the illusion of reality within a story. If you describe your character walking into a room, and then you say “he thought to himself,” it is obvious that the narrator knows what is going on in the character’s mind.

But if you describe him entering the room, and then say “he thought,” the audience is more likely to believe that he is unsure of his own thoughts, and not just being narrated by an all-knowing narrator.

In most cases, dialogue parentheticals should be enclosed in brackets: [ ]. You can also use commas if you prefer. However, parentheses are often used when they contain only one word, as opposed to a whole sentence: ( ) .


“Hello,” she said, “I am your new neighbor.” [She said (a little shyly) as she held out her hand.]

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I don’t think I know what you mean.” [He said (confused).

Every Way To Use Parentheticals In Screenwriting

Parentheticals are often used in screenwriting to convey the tone of a character’s thought. This is especially true when you are writing in the first person.

Consider this example:


I can speak three languages…

But that doesn’t matter because I’m sitting here all alone, feeling like a loser.

I know every waitress and bartender in town, but they’re too busy flirting with customers to even say hello to me.

The only time I come here anymore is when I’m meeting people for dates, and that hasn’t happened in months.

A waiter stops by my table and asks if he can get me anything else. I tell him sure, bring me another beer while you’re at it, why don’t you?

He looks at me like he has never seen me before; like I’m some kind of freak sitting all by myself in the corner booth. He takes my empty glass and scurries off to fill it up again with cold, tasteless brewskie.

All around me couples are laughing and talking about their plans for the weekend. The girl across from me has her head on the guy’s shoulder and she’s smiling at him as she talks about her new job as an  architect. 

What Are Parenthetical Instructions In Screenwriting?

What is a parenthetical instruction in screenwriting? It’s a note to the director on what to do.

Parenthetical instructions are notes to the director about a specific interpretation of the action written in the script. For example:


Parentheticals are also sometimes called “stage directions” or “action lines.” They appear in parentheses and are usually not spoken aloud by actors.

The parentheses around the instruction tell actors to perform this action as if it were an aside, or spoken directly to the audience.

In screenwriting, parentheticals are often used when a character is performing actions that can’t be seen by other characters. They’re used instead of simply describing what you see onscreen when the audience can’t see it for themselves.*

Example: (Fred turns off his phone and goes upstairs.)

When you include something like this, your reader should understand that Fred is turning off his cell phone and going up to bed without hearing what he says.

However, you can add some more information by including this parenthetical note: (Fred turns off his phone and goes upstairs. Then, he turns out all the lights except one he leaves on.)