Udemy logo

how to write a reference letterWhether you’re a teacher, an employer, or even just a good family friend you will likely write a reference letter for someone at some point in your life. If you don’t even know where to start, you’re not a lot. There are plenty of people out there that wouldn’t know where to even begin. Use the tips and templates below to help you write a reference letter. Before you begin, however, make certain you can write quality paragraphs, which you can learn in this course.

A Few Items to Consider Before Writing a Reference Letter

Before you begin writing a reference letter, there are few things you should consider. First, if you’ve never been asked to write one before, you might want to know what a reference letter is and what they’re for. Also, figure out if you’re qualified to write the letter.

What is it, and what are they for?

Also known as a recommendation letter, reference letters are formal documents that should be typed in a business style tone. They are usually used to confirm a person’s skills, character, or achievements that are listed on a resume. They can be used in a wide variety of situations. Some of the common reasons are listed below:

Again, these are only a few of the reasons a reference letter might be needed. There are plenty of other situations that require these letters as well. Are you sending a reference letter via email? Learn how to write effective business emails, which you can learn in this course.

Are you qualified to write this reference letter?

As a reference letter is considered a formal document, you should avoid lying when writing it. If someone approaches you for a reference letter, you should definitely be certain you’re qualified to write the letter:

What should you put in the reference letter?

If you have decided you are qualified to write someone a reference letter, consider exactly what you’re going to put into it. Structure will vary depending on the type of reference, but here are a few of the most common items you should include in a reference letter:

What should you avoid putting into the letter?

Again, reference letters are supposed to be positive. Mentioning weaknesses the candidate has can be viewed as negative and should be avoided. Don’t write anything that might be libel, and stick to formal, business manner writing. Slang and jokes could actually harm the person’s chances, and you don’t want to do that considering they approached you for help.

No employer or school administration needs to know personal information that isn’t relevant. Don’t include anything mentioning the person’s race, political thoughts, religion, nationality, marital status, etc. Some schools may request information about the student’s religious background, but these are private schools permitted to request that kind of information.

Like with all formal writing, your letter should be free of any errors. Be sure to check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Again, this is a formal letter and should look professional. Handwritten reference letters are rarely accepted unless it is a specific form that the employer or school has asked the candidate to take to you to be filled out.

If you have such a form, be sure to write legibly and neatly. If your own handwriting is too sloppy, get the help of a friend and dictate your reference to them. Brush up on your proofreading skills with this course so your reference letter helps the candidate. Don’t forget to check your grammar too, which you can boost with this course.

Templates and Samples to Help You

A quick search online can get you plenty of templates and samples to check out. Daily Writing Tips has two samples listed on their site, which can help you in writing your own reference letter. Business Balls offers a number of templates for many different types of reference letters including employment, personal, character, etc. Don’t forget that reference letters need to be typed. If you need help using Microsoft Word, check out this helpful blog article on the subject.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

Top courses in Business Writing

Better Business Writing Skills
Mark Morris
4.6 (31,566)
Business Communication Skills: Business Writing & Grammar
Alex Genadinik
4.6 (22,462)
Writing Effective Business Emails
Jane Watson
4.4 (2,331)
The Business Writing Course
Alan Sharpe
4.6 (205)
Business Writing For Busy People
Clare Lynch
4.6 (6,274)
Technical Report Writing
Tony Buon
4.3 (1,526)
Advanced Business Writing Skills
Mark Morris, Philip Fiske de Gouveia
4.6 (1,050)
Business Writing & Technical Writing Immersion
Starweaver Instructor Team, Paul Siegel
4.5 (6,518)

More Business Writing Courses

Business Writing students also learn

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy Business.

Request a demo