Tips on how to write a reference letter

If you are asked to write a reference for someone, you should think carefully before agreeing to do so. References have to be positive. If you feel that you couldn’t honestly write a glowing reference, then make an excuse not to write one. The last thing you should do is write a negative reference. This could lead to trouble, if the person ever finds out that your reference wasn’t a good one. The last thing you want is to have a libel case on your hands.

If you feel that you could not write a fair reference letter because it would be too negative, suggest that the person who needs a reference asks someone else to write the letter. Give suggestions and say that they would, in your opinion be more appropriate.


Before you write your letter, there are a few points to consider. Knowing how to write a reference letter will probably be very useful in the future. You never know when you will be asked to write one. Reference and reference letters are not very easy to write, as you want to be truthful, but not honest to a fault. You need to strike a balance between the absolute truth and reality. No one is perfect, although you may want to paint a glowing picture of the person you are writing about. It could be that the person you are writing about is

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A reference letter is a formal one. You will probably know the name of the person to whom you are writing, as mostly reference letter are written at the request of a prospective employer, or at least a member of the Human Resources department in a company. Alternatively, the person for whom you are writing a reference may ask for one to give to a number of people.

You need to decide how to format the letter. These days letter headings are aligned with the left-hand margin, although it is possible to format the beginning differently. Here are examples of how to write a reference letter, or at least of how to start one.

  • Example A

Your address


Recipient’s name

Recipient’s address

email address and/telephone and fax number

Dear Mr/Ms Smith

Re your request for a reference for Ms. Grace King

I am writing this reference on behalf of Ms. Grace King as requested.

Alternatively, you can format your letter like this: -

  • Example B

Your name and address


Recipient’s name and address


I am writing this reference letter as requested.

  • Example C

Use one of the formats above or instead of writing Dear Sir/Madam and their name. use the impersonal style of writing a reference letter, e.g.

To whom it may concern

Then begin the reference letter, stating why you are writing. You only need to put your address at the top of the letter and the date as in Example A.

Example C an be given to the person you are writing the reference for so that he or she can use it to give to many people, as necessary. This means that you need only write the one letter rather than having to deal with many reference requests.

Knowing how to write a reference letter will be useful to you but remember that your really should be honest when you write one.

At the start of the letter you should explain how you know the person for whom you are writing the reference. How many years have you known him or her? What is your relationship? Remember that it is not customary for co-workers to write references for each other. A reference letter should be written by a person who has a higher position in the company, for example, a head of department or an employer.

Next you should say something positive about the person for whom you are writing the letter. What are his/her accomplishments? Why would he or she be good for the job he or she is applying for? Say something about how well he or she works in a team; is he or she a valuable member of your team? Why? Next comment on his or her character, for example, is he or she reliable/dependable, trustworthy, punctual, efficient and so on.

To end the letter, you should recommend the person you are writing the reference for in one of these ways:

  • I have no hesitation in recommending Joe Johnson to you as I feel he is an asset to any company.
  • I can wholeheartedly recommend Ms. Peters for the job she is applying for.
  • Ms. Lovett is an ideal candidate for the job and I can fully endorse her.
  • I can wholeheartedly support Mr. Ullah in his application for this position.

If you have started the letter, Dear Sir or Madam, you must end it in the formal way, Yours faithfully and on the next line put your signature. Under it, in brackets, print your name. Then the recipient can write back to you if necessary. Signatures are difficult to understand most of the time.

If you started the letter with Dear Mr Smith or Ms Smith, you have to end the letter with Yours sincerely, then follow the instructions for the formal letter ending.

For a reference letter beginning ‘to whom it may concern’ you can simply sign it and print your name under the signature.

There are many ways of ending such a letter, but these examples are to give you an idea of what to write.

In the final paragraph you should offer to provide more information or details if required and make sure you add your phone number or email address. Sometimes employers will call a referee to ask further questions about an applicant.

You should keep the letter concise but mention all the relevant points. A letter of reference or recommendation should not be more than one page in length.

You will need a copy of the person’s CV or resumé so that you can tailor the reference letter to suit the job he or she is applying for. Mention the skills the person has which would be ideal for the position. If you can state examples of when the candidate for the job was observed using the relevant skills by you.

Of course, you may be asked to write a letter of reference for a student who is applying to a university or college. In that case you would need to know what qualifications he or she has or expects to have before the course starts. You should ask the person for whom you are writing the letter to give you specific details regarding the post or course that they are applying for. Then you can highlight the skills, qualifications or experience the person has which would be ideal for the prospective employer or for an academic department.

When you have finished writing the reference letter, you need to edit it before sending it. You mat ask someone else to do the editing and proofreading if you like. This should ensure that there are no typos or grammatical errors. However, remember that reference letters are confidential, so omit the name of the person you are writing about if you ask another person to read the letter.

Now you should be more confident about writing a reference letter, or a letter of recommendation. However, if you aren’t and you still think you need help, contact us. We run a completely professional and confidential writing service. We can just proofread and edit your letter, or we can write a reference letter for you. You don’t need to worry about writing anything. Our team of professionals can take care of all your writing for you. We can assure you that we will give your letter our complete attention and bring our letter-writing experience to bear on it. Why don’t you contact us now and find out more about how we can help you?

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