Know who you are writing to.
Wherever possible avoid sending out letters that are headed up Dear Sir or Madam. It shows little thought on your part if you don’t invest a small amount of time to find out exactly who it is you should be writing to. In this day and age many theatre companies have websites (some even display casting information), use the information on the site to try and find the name of the Casting Director or Director of the project you are showing interest in. Although, first name terms are widely accepted in the industry, you might want to consider how appropriate that might be before sending in your letter.
What level of Formality should you use?
Writing a covering letter for a job application or to an Agent or Casting Director is professional correspondence and therefore requires a certain level of formality. Unfortunately, the widespread use of text messaging seems to have corrupted the English language immeasurably and this appears to have crept into emails as well. Yesterday I received an email that was not addressed to anybody, had little or no punctuation, and appeared to be from somebody called ‘L’ which, after a little digging and following of links, I was able to ascertain was from a young actress called Laura.
These very informal communications betray a level of unprofessionalism on your part. Writing to an agent or other industry professional is NOT the same as text messaging your friend. Even if you do opt to use email (which many regard as preferable), you should still construct your message as though you were writing a letter. I have received emails that read:
“hi i I waz jus wondring if you have any jobs going???” Not for you my friend!
The above is a perfect (all be it extreme) example of how very poor spelling and punctuation can leave you looking bad. Good spelling and grammar demonstrate a basic level of intelligence.
Although most people won’t have time to read a three page essay detailing why you are the ‘right person for the job’, try not to be overly brief. Your letter (combined with your photograph) should indicate why we should consider you for a part and what you can offer the production. Personally speaking, if I get a sense of personality from the letter (and it is well written) I will almost always offer that individual an audition.