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.


Parentheticals in Scripts: A Quick Guide

In the world of scriptwriting, a parenthetical can be the secret sauce that adds flavor to dialogue.


It’s a nifty tool that gives actors direction on how to deliver their lines, tucked right between the character’s name and their dialogue.

We’ll jump into why parentheticals are a scriptwriter’s best friend, offering clarity without cluttering the page.

Stick with us to uncover how these little instructions can make a big impact on a scene’s emotional punch.

What Is A Parenthetical In A Script

When we talk about the craft of scriptwriting, one term that frequently comes up is the parenthetical.

Essentially, it’s a brief direction inserted into dialogue to guide an actor’s delivery.

These directions are nestled within parentheses and are strategically placed beneath the character’s name but before their lines.

They aim to enhance the dialogue’s intention without dictating the actor’s every move.

It’s crucial to strike a balance with the use of parentheticals.

Key aspects include:

  • Brevity and simplicity,
  • Significance to the line delivery.

Overuse can lead to a cluttered script and may restrict the actors’ ability to naturally bring a character to life.

Conversely, when used sparingly, parentheticals serve as valuable tools.

In Out of Sight, the sparing use of parentheticals contributed to the film’s dynamic character interactions.

Instructions like (sarcastically) or (beat) gave performers enough breathing room to imprint their personal touch while staying true to the script.

By understanding and utilizing parentheticals effectively, writers craft more nuanced and engaging scenes.


They communicate non-verbal cues that are often lost in written text, providing depth to cinematic storytelling.

Applying parentheticals requires a delicate touch.

They’re not just directions but an integral part of the storytelling process that helps in shaping unforgettable performances and moments on screen.

We must remember that parentheticals are a means, not an end.

In the journey of a script from page to stage, these subtle cues play a pivotal role in the evolution of a character’s on-screen life.

The Purpose Of Parentheticals

In scriptwriting, parentheticals serve a crucial function – they offer specific guidance to actors on how to deliver their lines.

Whether it’s conveying an emotion or dictating an action, these instructions help bring authenticity and nuance to a character’s dialogue.

Subtext, often hidden within the lines, is exposed through well-placed parentheticals.

For instance, a character saying “I’m fine” while the parentheticals read (grimaces) provides a layer of complexity indicating otherwise.


Effective use of parentheticals can also:

  • Set the tone for how a line is spoken,
  • Indicate a change in a character’s mood or demeanor,
  • Offer cues for physical reactions that complement the dialogue.

By providing these subtle cues, screenwriters enable actors to deliver more impactful performances and ensure that important nuances are not lost in translation from script to screen.

This is particularly evident in films where emotions run high and a single line can alter the trajectory of a character’s journey.

In Casablanca, for example, Rick’s brief parenthetical directions underline his internal conflict and contribute to the tension that defines his interactions with Ilsa.

Similarly, in The Godfather, nuances delivered through parentheticals help to convey the underlying power dynamics and family tensions.

It’s our understanding that the judicious use of parentheticals can turn a good script into a great one.

They empower actors to give life to words on a page, allowing them to truly inhabit their roles and deliver those memorable moments that resonate with audiences.

We also recognize that overuse can be detrimental, hence why a balance must be struck.

How To Use Parentheticals

When writing a script, understanding how to effectively use parentheticals is key to crafting compelling dialogue.

They provide the actor with essential insight into how a line should be sounded or performed.

It’s crucial to use parentheticals sparingly as they can disrupt the flow if they’re overused.

When used judiciously, they can be a powerful tool for emphasizing the subtext of dialogue.

Here are some best practices for incorporating parentheticals into your script:

  • Keep them brief – a word or a short phrase is usually enough,
  • Use them for significant tonal shifts or actions that aren’t obvious from the dialogue,
  • Avoid using them for direction that can be inferred from the surrounding script context.

Essential elements for employing parentheticals include clarity and purpose.

Remember, their role is not to micromanage every line but to clarify moments that need an extra level of guidance.

Adding parentheticals before a line of dialogue can also prep the reader for a particular entry of a character.

This sets the tone for what’s coming, whether it’s a whisper, a shout, or a sarcastic remark.

Reactions are another area where parentheticals shine.

They can suggest a character’s physical or emotional response that’s not spoken but is critical for the scene.

Such direction might include a pause, a sigh, or a specific expression that alters how the following line is perceived.

Italics, like in Gone with the Wind or Pulp Fiction, can help punctuate specific actions or voice inflections.

But, it’s imperative not to overstyle the script, as this can detract from the actor’s interpretation of the character.

By providing context and enhancing the emotional weight of a scene, parentheticals serve not just the actors but the entire filmmaking process.

They are the silent guides that, when used correctly, can help achieve the subtleties of performance that elevate the storytelling.

The Impact Of Parentheticals On Dialogues

Parentheticals wield substantial influence over dialogue delivery in scripts.

They act as a roadmap for actors, guiding them through the emotional landscape of their characters.

While the words spoken are the skeleton of conversation, parentheticals add the flesh and blood.

They offer nuances and subtleties that might be otherwise lost.

In The Godfather, the gravitas of certain scenes is heavily dependent on how a line is delivered.

Without the right direction, a pivotal moment can falter and lose its intended impact.

Here are some key ways in which parentheticals can impact dialogue:

  • Emotional context – They hint at the underlying sentiments that should accompany the lines.
  • Pacing and rhythm – Parentheticals can suggest pauses which help set the rhythm of the dialogue.
  • Character consistency – They maintain a character’s unique voice and backstory, ensuring that their reactions align with their development.

Films are remembered for iconic lines that resonate with the audience.

Think of Gone With the Wind and the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

” The nonchalant delivery, directed through parenthetical guidance, is crucial to its lasting legacy.

Consider the delicate dance between dialogue and action.

Parentheticals mark the beats, informing when a character should sigh, laugh, or frown – all while speaking their lines.

The industry is ever-evolving, and so are the techniques that make a script come alive.

We understand the importance of parentheticals and strive to bring light to the elements that elevate storytelling in film and television.

What Is A Parenthetical In A Script – Wrap Up

We’ve seen how parentheticals are the unsung heroes of a script, offering crucial cues that bring dialogue to life.

They’re not just technical tools; they’re the whisper in the actor’s ear, the subtle nudge that turns words into a symphony of emotion.

As storytellers, we must wield them with care, ensuring they complement our characters’ voices rather than overshadow them.

Let’s continue to embrace the nuanced art of scriptwriting, using parentheticals to craft scenes that resonate with authenticity and depth.

Remember, every great performance starts with a well-written cue, and that’s exactly what parentheticals provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Purpose Of Parentheticals In Scriptwriting?

Parentheticals provide crucial emotional context, pacing instructions, and help maintain character consistency in dialogue.

They guide actors on how to deliver lines and contribute significantly to the scene’s impact.

How Do Parentheticals Enhance A Scene?

They offer insight into the character’s emotions and motivations, which can transform a scene by adding depth and authenticity to dialogue delivery.

This helps in creating more powerful and memorable moments on screen.

Can Parentheticals Influence An Actor’s Performance?


Parentheticals act as directional cues, steering actors through the emotional terrain of their characters, ensuring that each line is delivered with the intended tone, mood, and personality.

Are Parentheticals Necessary For All Scripts?

While not every script heavily relies on parentheticals, they are an essential tool for scriptwriters to communicate specific intentions for dialogue delivery, and can be key to achieving the desired performance in a scene.

What Can Happen If Parentheticals Are Overlooked In Scriptwriting?

Neglecting the use of parentheticals can lead to misinterpretation of dialogue, less nuanced performances, and a possible disconnection between the actor’s delivery and the writer’s vision.

How Do Parentheticals Support Character Uniqueness?

By specifying how a line should be spoken, parentheticals ensure that a character’s unique voice and backstory are reflected in their dialogue, contributing to a more credible and consistent portrayal.

Will Understanding Parentheticals Benefit My Scriptwriting?


Mastering the use of parentheticals can elevate your storytelling, allowing for more nuanced and emotionally impactful scenes, which is crucial in an ever-evolving industry.