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The Literate Letter

The Literate Letter
Even though the agents, managers, casting directors, etc., you correspond with understand that you're trying to get work as an actor, not a copy editor or an 8th-grade English teacher, it is still important to make sure your writing is error-free. Typos, even small ones, give a reader the impression that you are lazy or unprofessional or worse. Think about the feeling you get when you're reading a book or magazine and you see a big, honking typo. Now think about the casting director you just auditioned for last week having that same reaction when reading your thank-you note. Unpleasant, right? And although running spell check on any correspondence before sending it is a must, spell check can only do so much. Listed below are a few common mistakes that you might not be looking out for.

To compliment is to make a flattering statement. To complement is to go well together. A casting director might compliment you on your professionalism. You might tell her that you think you'd be a great complement to the ensemble cast of the comedy she's working on.

principal/principle: You are auditioning for a principal role, not a principle role. "Principle" is never an adjective; it is only a noun, usually meaning "a rule or code of conduct." A movie that has good principals might be an awards-season favorite, whereas a movie with good principles will probably never make it out of development.

fleshed out/flushed out: To flesh out is to expand, improve, give more substance to. You work with a director to flesh out your role. You flush out when you get a corrosive substance in your eyes.

everyone/every one: You would like to thank everyone at GO Casting for their time. You hope every one of your spec scripts gets picked up.

onto/on to: This mistake is so common that, to be honest, even if you make it, it will probably go unnoticed. Here is a good shortcut: If you can insert the word "up" into the sentence before "on" and the sentence still makes sense, then "onto" is probably correct. If not, "on to" is likely correct. The mistake occurs most often with "hold on to." It's not "hold onto."

The English language being what it is, there are a ton more pitfalls like the above, but a little knowledge goes a long way. It doesn't hurt to have a reference like the AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style on your bookshelf. At the very least, have a syntax-savvy friend look over your letters before you send them. The grammar-conscious are everywhere, in all walks of life, not just in classrooms and newsrooms. Why risk losing a job over something so easily correctable? After all, isn't meticulous attention to detail what separates the great actors from everyone else?

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