Although I have written a number of articles that deal with various aspects of writing letters of reference, I have never before itemized in one place the important steps you need to follow when writing a reference letter. Following is a list of those key points:
Make Sure It IS A Reference Letter
As I have detailed at length elsewhere, there is a lot of confusion between reference and recommendation letters letters. So make sure that the letter you are about to write is actually a letter of reference and not a letter of recommendation.
Determine Your Approach and Strategy
Depending on the specific situation you are dealing with, your approach and strategy to drafting the reference letter will vary. First and foremost, are you the best person to be writing this letter of reference? Then there will be questions as to how direct and forthcoming do you need to be? Also, is it appropriate to write something negative about the person being recommended?
Structure Your Letter Appropriately
Letters of reference will normally follow a three-part structure: 1.) opening statement, 2.) assessment statements, and 3.) closing statement.
Review Your Letter Carefully
Whether you are writing a reference for yourself or for someone else, it is likely to be among the most important letters you will ever write. Letters of reference have the power to change people’s lives. That’s why it is imperative that you carefully review the letter of reference that you have drafted and make sure it is phrased appropriately and is absolutely correct in terms of spelling and grammar. For obvious reasons, a reference letter is one that needs to be as close to perfect as possible.