Screenwriting : Character dialogue and accents by David G Haddon

David G Haddon

Character dialogue and accents

When writing a screenplay, do you write for the accent or do you write normal and let the actor create their own accent based on the character background? IE You are providing... vs You are providin'...

Doug Nelson

Let the actor do his/her job.

Craig Prickett

I write in acents,I use vocabulary.voice patterns,voice beats and meter.But I come from a speech writing background and these are the tools of a speech writer.I will usually have things in the action lines that support the dialogue.Actors,Directors etc will change anything they want anyway.So if you think it's an important part of the character do it if you don't think it is don't do it.

Katherine de Bois

Ahhh yes. I wondered the same thing recently. I had a heavy European, first generation thug family..... I wrote that group of family characters with the slang abbreviations. But left all other accents to just description implied


Goran Zivanovic

Use a parenthetical if you need to. For example, "(in an Irish accent)". The dialogue should be written in plain English. As Doug Nelson said, "Let the actor do his/her job." Also, the voice coach can assist the talent. The same applies to foreign languages, such as, "(in French)".

If you have a string of dialogue in the scene, place a note below the first scene heading so you don't take the reader out of the story with a bunch of parenthetical inserts under each character. For example: "(NOTE: This scene is spoken in Romanian with English subtitles.) ".

Pidge Jobst

Too much vernacular or dialect can slow down the reader. Occasional or sparing use, especially to delineate a character can add flavor. In the end, it's more important to use the language order of the world you are building than it is the dialect. For instance, Yoda would never say, "Keep tryin'" but rather, "Do or do not, there is no such thing a try." Where contractions are more real in a script (use "don't" instead of "do not") it is not the case with the character Yoda. Exemplum: "WTF" use perhaps in a contemporary script, "what the bloody hell" in a British script, and "what in tarnation" in a Western is a better sought-after effort in the way of character differentiation than dialect.

Ryan Anzaldi

I just this moment finished reading someone's spec where they used phonetic accented dialogue, and it really hampered the story. There were some moments where I had to go back and re-read the dialogue just to make sure it said what I thought it said.

I think building your scene and your world contributes so much more to how the character's voices are extrapolated then just inserting phonetic dialogue. The writer of the aforementioned script was trying to convey an American deep-south accent, but they could've put that in my head just by mentioning the location, which they didn't do.

Ultimately, I think that it will boil down to a directorial decision and actor limitations either way, so it's best just to keep it legible. If it's important, infer the character's verbal traits as best as you can from their locations and origins, or write it in the notes.

Dustin Quinteros

I posted a similar question not to long ago. The most consistent feedback was write to the character, but you have to let the actor find that characters "voice". Regional dialects are tough, I often think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has people from Savannah have a very distinguished southern accent.

Ewan Dunbar

Some light touches can be ok, but its better to leave phonetics to the actor as they will have done the research into the specific dialect of the character. You can indicate how light or heavy the accent is under the character heading the first time they speak or if its particularly important in that moment. If its confusing or breaking the flow of the read then it becomes a problem.

Ugo Cavallo

Since most of my projects are in italian I use prope language (since here people barely speak Italian correctly... yuck! They keep speaking using the roman accent) ^^'

Audrey O'Reilly

This is a very good question. I have to say, I find it slightly annoying to read, but then some times sentence constructive is very specific. Here in France, one of my scripts is about to be optioned but they will bring on a dialogue write to make sure it's right for certain characters.

Dustin Quinteros

Whenever I find myself not really sure about a technique I try and find something similar, that was also well written. Great site for resources.

CJ Walley

I crank it up to eleven. No complaints yet.

Shane Stanley

Hey now, CJ Walley ! :)

Craig D Griffiths

I write so it is read the way I want. If the character is a mumbler with an accent I would write “yeh provid’n”

I wouldn’t make it to outrages. But make it constant.

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