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Showing posts from May 27, 2007

A Reference Letter for God -- Invitation to Write #10

For Writers:

Over the years, I’ve been asked to write reference letters for a number of students and faculty. The secret to writing a good reference letter is to add specific key words that pop off the page. To help them “pop,” I think it’s even okay to put such words in bold – words such as innovative or leader. No one really reads references with the intent of savoring every word. After all, the reference letter has a certain form and follows specific, mutually-agreed upon criteria. Actually, most readers of reference letters are simply looking for what you don’t say. Death by omission.

I’ve found that the hardest references to write are the ones for people I don’t know that well. A surprising number of students ask instructors for a reference letter after just a semester (and sometimes not even that long). And, as a direct supervisor of faculty, I sometimes need to write a reference letter for someone that I haven’t observed teach. How can I tell someone that Dr. X is a good teacher …