Tips How To Write A Reference Letter

What is a reference letter?

A letter of reference also referred to as a letter of recommendation defines an individuals’ skills, experiences, education achievements, personality among other relevant qualities that are important or worth noting. Letters of reference differ depending on the reason why it is requested for, or the person asked to write the reference letter. It may be a professional letter when it is written when requesting for employment or job positions, character or personal reference letter when written by a close friend, neighbor, mentor among others.

It is important to note that a letter of reference is a very important document and is frequently asked, so it is prudent for you to learn how to write a very good and presentable on. Moreover, if you are not willing to write a professional reference letter for someone who has requested, it is better not to accept the request rather than accept it and write a very shoddy letter that will ruin not only the individual’s reputation but also, spoil the chances of the person being accepted.

How to write a reference letter correctly?

A reference letter should be focused on highlighting some of the positive skills, achievements, and traits of the individual whom the letter is being written about.

Before writing a reference, letter, it is important to take into account the following:

  • A positive endorsement is key in the reference letter so be sure only to describe the best you have seen in the individual including their capabilities and strength. Be sure to mention a few instances that you have seen the person show exemplary talent and skill in what he or she does. Mind your tone and choice of words as you write the reference letter so that you do not end up suggesting things that may not be in order or may end up spoiling the chances of acceptance of the person you are writing about.
  • Reference letters have to be short but detailed and to the point especially when writing personal reference letters are sure to be as precise as you can and avoid unnecessary explanations that would not add value to building the persons’ reputation.
  • Follow simple rules such as document format, number of words and writing styles especially in the case of student reference letters which usually have varied specifications.
  • Research about the individual if you are not very well acquainted with him or her and it is always prudent to ask for the individual’s copy of curriculum vitae so that you can be on the same page.
  • Most importantly, as mentioned earlier, if for one or two reasons you are sure that you cannot focus on bringing the positive and good side of the person who has requested you to write the reference letter, or simply that you are not conversant with how the letter should be written, it is better to decline the request that do a sloppy letter that will end up reducing the person’s chances of success to mere impossibility.

When writing a reference letter, just ask yourself this very simple question; is this the kind of letter I would desire someone else to write for me? Put yourself in the individual’s shoes! Am sure you have gone through an experience of searching for a job, an internship, admission to the desired learning institution among other unpleasant experiences. Then why don’t be kind enough to the person who has requested the reference letter from you and spared him or her the headache and sheer struggle?

Understanding and using reference letter format

A reference letter basically takes the shape of a formal letter. Thus, you begin by giving the contact your own contact information and that of the person in charge or the addressee. Here, you should include; name, telephone number, postal and email addresses.

Other parts of the reference letter in order of which they are to be written include:

  • Salutation- here, you write “Dear Sir or Madam last name” and if you do not know the addressee’s last name, you may include the position held by the addressee for example; “Dear Chairman” or “Dear Admissions Committee” when the letter is primarily for admission. If it is a very professional letter, you may begin by writing; “Whom it may concern”
  • Introduction- in this section, be sure to mention the relationship you share with the individual you are writing about, where you interacted and for how long. While doing so, be sure to include the name of the person and the position being applied for, for example; I recommend Carolina Johns for the position of Chief Laboratory Officer at LCM Company.
  • Body- this section is basically composed of two to three paragraphs. In the first paragraph, focus on explaining more about your relationship with the person you are writing about and be as specific as possible mentioning if it is personal or professional. Moreover, try to explain why you are best suited to write the letter of reference. In the next one or two paragraphs mention the traits and commendable qualities that are portrayed by the person. Highlight the behavior, character and personality of the individual honestly and mention some worth-while traits that you have personality identified from the individual during your encounters. You may even take advantage of the very last paragraph to vividly describe some of the instances where you witnessed the individual using his or her knowledge and skills to solve a somewhat challenging problem. In this section, try to give traits and instances that relate to what the person is applying for. This will go a-way longer in increasing the chances of acceptance of the person.
  • Ending- in this part of the reference letter where you basically share your contact details including phone number and email address among others. It is also prudent and more appealing to offer to answer any questions or comments that may arise. This helps remove any shadow of doubt and is always a really nice strategy that should be employed.
  • Signature- this is the last part of the letter where you write your signature followed by your name just like any other formal letter.

Other components to note while writing a reference letter:

  • Length- as mentioned earlier, a reference letter should be short but detailed. Usually, the letter should not exceed one page in length. To ensure this, you must be careful not to over-explain some points or add points that are unnecessary in your letter.
  • Format- reference letter should be single-spaced with a space between each paragraph. The text should be aligned to the left, and the margins should be 1”.
  • Writing font- the traditional font is mostly used such as Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri. Font size may range between 10 and 12 points.
  • Proofread- it is always important to go through the letter for any grammatical, spelling mistakes or poor sentence structure before sending.

Sample reference letter template

Below is an example of a reference letter:

Dear Mr. Waliwa,

I have thought Miss Caroline Thompson for the last four years at the Institute of Progei as her lecturer in some units including; marine ecology, animal biodiversity, and environmental microbiology. She finished her undergraduate studies, and I would highly recommend her to intern at the Medical Research Centre for Marine Animals.

Miss Caroline is one of the most brilliant, astute and hardworking students I have ever worked with. Her passion for marine life coupled with her drive and ambition to explore what the marine life has to offer will go a long way in ensuring that she makes you pleased with her work.

She is also a disciplined, respectful, responsible, cheerful and a tremendous team player who will stop at nothing until she has accomplished what she has set out to. I am confident that her experience there will help her broaden her knowledge and it being what she is so passionate about will open up a chance for her to put her knowledge and skills into practice. She particularly impressed me with her project which mainly focused on how the growth of water hyacinth could best be curbed by using simple organic compounds that are not harmful to other marine life species.

Miss Caroline is one of those students that I would not mind teaching at any time, and it would be my greatest pleasure to work with such an intelligent mind. I would be more than willing to answer any concerns that may arise. Contact me at: +567809321 or [email protected]


Walawi Jeff Macdonald.  

Using reference letter examples

Reference letter samples helps to groom your writing skills. When you get exposed to the work of other writers you will be able to learn how to encrypt your reference letter to meet the recommended format. We are sure you have seen how simple it is to write a reference letter! Just follow the simple steps above, and you will get the hang of it in no time!