questionmarkI’m curious about your format for writing a one-sided phone conversation.

I’ve seen it done in so many different ways now, that I have no idea if there is a more uniform way of doing it, or a preferred way.

I’ve seen…

KEVIN

(on phone)

I know it’s your birthday…I can’t make it…Look, that’s not my problem.

or…

KEVIN

(on phone)

I know it’s your birthday…

(listens)

I can’t make it.

(listens)

Look, that’s not my problem.

Then, I’ve seen some similar to above, but filled with (beat) instead.

Is there one correct way to do it?

– Kris
New York City

There’s no one “right” way, but I tend to choose the first option, since space is always at a premium. The only time to break out the parentheticals is if something really is changing on Kevin’s side of the conversation: the tone, the intent or the direction of the conversation.

You’ll also need a parenthetical (or a separate action line) if Kevin is speaking to someone on-screen and on the phone at the same time.

For instance, here’s an exchange from Go:

GAINES

(on phone)

It’s called Mary Xmas. Mary like a chick…Like her name is Mary, not like you marry her. You fucking moron…I dunno, some warehouse shit.

(to Claire)

Is this gonna be cool?

CLAIRE

Yeah, I guess.

GAINES

(on phone)

My friend Claire here says it’s going to be a kick-ass-fucking-time…What, you know her?

(to Claire)

It’s your buddy Simon. He’s in Vegas.

CLAIRE

I know.

GAINES

She knows…Hell, I dunno…

(looks at Claire)

Maybe…Yeah, well save a load for me big boy…Whatever.