First, it was such a pleasure to meet you in Austin last year. Hope to see you next year, too. I had a question that I’ve never gotten a straight answer on.

How do you format it when you’re trying to show text being written on a computer monitor, specifically showing the exchange between two people in an internet chat room (a la “Closer”, but I haven’t found that script)? I’m guessing INSERT: COMPUTER SCREEN would be a start, but what’s after that? Would the same be used to show the text message on a cell phone?

— Derek

Your instincts are right. I might choose slightly different words, but the net result would be the same:

With a glance back over her shoulder to be certain no one’s looking, Sydney quickly types in the search parameters.

ON THE SCREEN

Bank records scroll past at unreadable clip, finally arriving at a single matched record:

CREDIT DAUPHINE, 204394753, BRUSSELS

ON SYDNEY

She GASPS, recognizing her former faux-employer.

SYDNEY

(sotto)

SD6.

I used a separate slugline (“ON SYDNEY”) to get us out of “ON THE SCREEN.” If you were crunched for space, you could probably omit it; it’s pretty clear in context.

I don’t often use “INSERT:” or “ANGLE ON:” in screenplays. They feel fussy, and rarely offer anything more than a single slugline in uppercase would.

And as far as a cell-phone screen, there’s really no difference:

Hearing a strange CHIRP, Chloe digs out her cell phone. She’s gotten a new text message.

ON THE SCREEN

WHRE U AT?

CHLOE

grimaces, frustrated. Starts to dial.

CHLOE

(to Ruth)

I swear, your brother could get lost in a closet.