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SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

(Changed November 2013)

MINIMUM STANDARD FOR TYPESETTING

Please feel free to browse the house style guidelines below. These describe how your play will be formatted. However, we have word-processing macros to do a lot of the work. When you submit a play for appraisal you don’t need to worry about the format, but if we proceed to a publishing agreement we do demand that you meet the following minimum rules:-

1. All stage directions should be in lower case italics and contained within brackets (), but see rule 2 below.

2. Any character names within stage directions must be in capitalised lowe case.

3. Character names at the start of spoken lines should be immediately followed by a colon then a space, e.g. Barbara: This is my line.

Submissions that do not meet these basic rules may be rejected at our discretion.

  1. In all cases, the FONT is Arial 10 point

  2. The only FONT ATTRIBUTES used anywhere in the script are italics and bold. Never use any others, especially underline.

  3. PAGE NUMBERS. Leave them out - we'll include them at the typesetting stage.

  4. SPELLING and GRAMMAR. We cannot stress enough that you should check spelling again and again. It is very rare that we receive a script that is free of spelling errors, and this becomes especially difficult with dialogue. If one of your characters talks with an accent, etc., you may decide to spell words in ways that are not in the dictionary, for example "summat" instead of "something" - we have no way of knowing whether you mean these "errors" to be there or have made a mistake, so please take special care.

A useful trick when you are reading over the script (which you should do several times before submission) is to temporarily set a completely different font - you'd be amazed how many errors that are invisible using Times New Roman suddenly become glaring when shown in Arial!

Also, if you have any specialist terms, for example technical or medical words, please ensure they are spelled correctly.

The most frequent and frustrating errors we get are on much simpler words, and more from misuse than from spelling or typographical errors. If fact most of these words are real words - it is their use and context that form the error, not the actual spelling. Below are some very common examples.

 

Word Mistyped as

Notes

you’re
your
your
you’re

You’re means “you are” - your is possessive. So “You’re telling me that your leg’s broken?” is correct. “Your making typing mistakes” is not.

their
they’re
there
there

Their is possessive, there indicates a situation. They’re means “they are”. “Their homework is in their satchels over there, and there are two extra bags with them. They’re taking them to their teacher tomorrow.”

its it's

This one breaks the standard apostrophe rule. If the meaning of the word is “it is”, then use it’s. At ALL other times use its. “It’s a good idea to turn the power off before you unscrew its cover.”

could have could of

Along with should have, etc., this is a common mistake that is always wrong. It is gradually creeping into modern speech (sadly) so could be included in dialogue if that is what is meant.

effect affect

People and things can affect other people and things. People and things are affected by other people and things. In other words, affect is a verb. Effect, however, is a noun. “Greenhouse gases affect the atmosphere. The effects of global warming are changing weather conditions. There are many exceptions to these basic rules. For example, it is possible for someone to effect (a verb) a solution to a problem. If in doubt, find another way to say it.

number is number are

Strictly speaking, the word “number” is a single item, so “a number of people are going to come” is incorrect; it should be “a number of people is going to come”. In modern speech, however, this can sound stilted, so some sense and flexibility should be applied. This also applies to the following (correct) examples: the government is.... a few of the crowd is... everyone is.... nobody is....

In-laws

The correct English is mothers-in-law, not mother-in-laws.

PUNCTUATION

The rules of punctuation are far too numerous to explore fully here, but there are some very common mistakes that will be mentioned.

Never have a space before a comma, question mark or exclamation mark.

It is a matter of choice (and a much debated topic) whether a double space is required after a full stop at the end of a sentence. We use single spaces.

Please pay attention to apostrophes. The most common error is plurals; people type area’s (as in more than one area). Plurals do not have an apostrophe before the s. Areas is the correct plural of area. This also applies to common abbreviations, for example CDs is the plural of CD, not CD’s. And something that occurred between 1970 and 1979 is on the 70s, not the 70’s.

Note that apostrophes can also be used to indicate missing letters, so that isn’t means is not, the apostrophe replacing the missing o. The word photo’s, therefore, is quite correct, the apostrophe indicating the missing letters from the full form photographs, not a plural.

If you wish to get fuller descriptions of punctuations, we recommend reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves", by Lynne Truss.

 

Ends of lines, dashes, dots, etc.

If you use ellipsis (...) To indicate a “trail-off”, do not leave a space before it. This can have the unfortunate effect of wrapping to the next line during formatting, so that a single line just containing the three dots will exist. The same holds true if you use a dash at the end of a line with a space before it. Purist English uses various dots and dashes to indicate various trail-offs, pauses, etc. If in doubt, and to keep it simple, use an ellipsis (or three dots) attached to the word it applies to. When trailing off, attach it to the last word said. At the start of a line (for example if someone is finishing a speech for someone else) attach it to the first word (no space).

The following table gives a blow-by-blow work through of the NTP house style. It is presented in tabular form, with examples in the left-hand column and explanations in the right hand column. Please note that this is only for explanation and your script should NOT be presented in a table.

 

Item in script (all Arial font)

Explanatory notes, etc.

The House Style

The play’s title. 10 point, bold, centralised

a comedy by Fred Bloggs

the type and author, bold, 10 point, centralised

cast (in order of appearance)

bold, italic, 10 point centralised

Fred - in his 50s

Dorothy - his wife, younger

left justified, with dash separator. Give approximate ages and descriptions, but keep it flexible. A group full of older actors might be put off your play if you demand "in his 20s" when the age need not be so tight.

Synopsis of scenes

ACT I scene 1 - late afternoon in August

ACT I scene 2 - a few minutes later

usually for full length plays. Again note the use of the dash/hyphen. See later notes on ACT and Scene numbering.

Time: the present.

Setting: The play is set in the living room of Annie Brown’s cottage in rural Somerset. There is a door DL and a window UC, through which can be seen a few trees and distant hills....

Helpful information covering the whole play. Italics, full justification.

ACT I Scene 1

Announcing a section of the play. Bold, centralised

Early afternoon sunlight streams through the window, and distant birdsong can be heard. The curtain rises on an empty stage. After a few seconds the phone rings and Annie enters L. She is an attractive woman in her forties, dressed from gardening and carrying a trowel. She rushes to the phone and answers.

Introductory information to this section (Act, Scene, etc.) Italics, full justification.

Annie: (breathless) Hello... Yes, this is she... Who...? No, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong number. This is 422576... No problem... Bye. (She looks at the phone curiously and slowly replaces the receiver. She shrugs and turns back towards the door.)

A spoken line. The character’s name is in capitalised lower case, bold, and is followed immediately by a colon, also in bold, and a single space. Note the directions are in italics and contained within round brackets (parentheses) that are also in italics. See later notes on punctuation and capitalisation of stage directions.

(As Annie gets half way to the door, it crashes open and we see Jethro standing there, open shears in his hand. He looks as if he has seen a ghost.)

Stage directions that are not part of a spoken line. These are in parentheses, as are all such directions save those at the start of a section, see above, and are always in italics, fully justified. Character names are always in capitlaised lower case.

Annie: (shocked) Jethro...? What’s the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.

Jethro: (pointing vaguely towards the door) It’s... it’s... him!

(Annie looks curiously for a few seconds, the realises what Jethro is suggesting.)

It’s the master!

Annie: Don’t let’s start all that again.

Note in the example left how Annie has directions within one of Jethro’s lines. When Jethro’s speech continues, there is no need to add his name again, since he is still the one speaking. Note also the italics on the word him to give extra emphasis. To increase emphasis, use the following sequence.

Him (normal)

Him (italics - slight emphasis)

HIM (capitals - greater emphasis)

HIM (italicised capitals - maximum emphasis)

Curtain

Centralised, bold

Furniture and Properties List

Introducing one of the information sections at the end of the play. Bold, centralised.

ACT I Scene 1

Three seat settee (C)

Matching armchair (L)
           On it:
Newspapers.

Note that this is NOT the dialogue part of the play, but is a section of the furniture and properties list pertaining, in the example on the left, to ACT I Scene 1.

Format is fairly free here, because of the huge variations in content, but should be laid out so as to be unambiguous. Stage settings, properties and personal properties should be included, together with notes as to where they are, whose props they are and so on. Adding page numbers where props first appear is very useful, but cannot be done at the manuscript stage. The best way is to put (Page xx) where you want a page number and edit the actual numbers when you get the initial proof.

A very useful addition for theatre companies are directions of what to set and what to strike prior to the start of each act or scene. Be as flexible as possible with these items - demanding an "authentic 1815 newspaper" may well put a group off when "a newspaper of the period" would suffice!

 

Sound Effects

Lighting

(diagram)

Diagrams for stage setting can be included. Send them in jpg format with maximum width 10cm, or we can scan good quality line drawings for you.

 

ACT AND SCENE NUMBERING

ACT should always be upper case and followed by a Roman Numeral (ACT I, ACT II, etc.)

Scene should always be capitalised lower case and followed by an Arabic Number (Scene 1, Scene 2, etc.)

The following table gives good and bad examples:-  

 

ACT I

Good

 

ACT II Scene 3

Good

 

Scene 6

Good

 

Act I

Bad

ACT is not upper case

ACT 2

Bad

The number is not Roman - should be ACT II

ACT II SCENE 4

Bad

Scene should be lower case with initial capital

ACT II Scene iv

Bad

Should be Scene 4

PUNCTUATION OF STAGE DIRECTIONS

There are more variations here than anywhere else, and there are hundreds of opinions as to the best rules. The New Theatre Publications rules outlined here are arbitrary, but hopefully will be consistent.  

We shall use an example to illustrate various points.

Annie: (whispering) Jethro... Jethro, are you there? (She creeps forward and switches on the light.) Jethro... (Louder) Jethro! Jethro, you’re scaring me now, I’m going to (coughs) call for help. (Starts towards the telephone.)

The first direction,  (whispering), forms part of the spoken line “Jethro... Jethro, are you there?” and is hence not capitalised. This direction signifies that the following words are whispered.

The next direction,  (She creeps forward and switches on the light.), forms a complete sentence in itself and does not qualify the words preceding or following it. Consequently it has an initial capital letter and a full stop at the end. Note that the full stop is always inside the brackets.

The third direction, (Louder) starts a sentence and signifies the following words as in the first one above.

The fourth direction (coughs) forms part of the sentence that completely contains it, and therefore has no capital letter or punctuation.

The fifth direction (Starts towards the telephone.) is a complete sentence similar to the second.

The above rules are intended as a guideline, and are not exhaustive.  

OTHER NOTES ON STAGE DIRECTIONS AND CASTING

There is a large body of opinion that says no stage directions should be included at all, and many directors completely ignore them. It’s easy to see why, since the directions you give are for a different stage set than the one they’ll be working with, but many groups still like to have some directions in there.

Keep directions unambiguous and concise. Extensive and complex directions tend to confuse and complicate rather than help.

Make actors’ movements sensible. People never move, stand, sit, etc. for no reason. The frequently-heard comment “it’s a bit static, I think we’ll have you moving there” is a cop-out. It implies your words are not interesting enough to grip the audience without superfluous movement.

When describing characters, again be flexible. Stating that a role is for a 5'5" blonde of 22 with a slim figure and blue eyes may well fit your image of her, but may put off a group that only has brunettes! If there is an age or physical trait that is vital, spell it out, otherwise give some ranges.

Having said that, it is helpful to give age guidelines in the cast list.

Also useful is an approximate playing time.  

CATALOGUE INFORMATION

We need the following information about the play:-

Title

 

Author

 

Play Type

(Comedy, Play, Thriller, Panto, etc.)

Number of men in cast

Remember that plays are grouped in the catalogue and on the website by the number of male and female roles - this is also the way many groups search for a script, so be as helpful as possible. For example, most pantomimes have deliberately variable cast sizes, but telling us how many m and f principal parts there are is a great help.

For play collections, give the cast size for each within the synopsis.

Number of women in cast

Other cast (e.g. “Plus chorus”, “variable”, “flexible”, etc.)

A synopsis of around 100 words.

Note that the synopsis will appear on the rear cover of the play, on the website catalogue and in the paper catalogue, so is a sales pitch to sell it to anyone browsing a library, bookshop, the NTP website or the NTP catalogue. Think long and hard about a good sales pitch here. If you have included a variable or flexible casting, etc., give more details - it would be a shame if your play that was in the catalogue as 2m 3f was overlooked by a group wanting a 1m 4f cast if one of the male roles could be played by a woman!

It is also worth highlighting any awards the play has won.

Don’t worry about keeping the denouement a secret here - the cast and production team will find it out when they read it - it’s up to them to keep the audience in suspense, not the author.

 

WORD PROCESSING

For reasons that are probably of no interest here, NTP uses Corel® WordPerfect® for typesetting our scripts. If you have that, we're more than happy that you send scripts that way.) You can email them or put them on CD/Floppy disk and send to NTP, 2 Hereford Close, Woolston, Warrington, Cheshire, WA1 4HR.) Please tell us if you'd like the disk to be returned and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

If you don't have WordPerfect, Microsoft Word® is the next preference. We can also read other word processor formats, but it adds significantly to the workload and is prone to translation errors. If you use a different word processor, try saving the file in Word format if you can.

We'd like to receive two files from you. One contains the play script itself, in the format outlined below, and the other contains catalogue information, again outlined below. Give your files sensible names - if everyone sent files called script.doc and catalogue.doc  we'd soon get confused. If your play is called "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (don't try it, it's been done already!) then files called Midsummer Nights Dream.doc and Midsummer Nights Dream Info.doc would be sensible titles. If you need any help with computers or word processing, please call Ian Hornby, whose "other job" was training people how to use computers.

 

 

The house style defines how our play scripts look in terms of formatting, fonts, layout, etc.

This page includes guidelines to help you format your play for submission.

This is not quite the final format, but enables us to get to the final format quickly and with few errors. The guidelines are given by example, and are, hopefully, quite comprehensive, but if you have any queries or suggestions, please contact us and we'll amend them.

New members and new submissions welcome