How to Write a Character Reference Letter

If you're a teacher, pastor or employer, you may get asked to write character references often. To simplify this process, you may want to memorize an easy formula that outlines how to write references. Try this simple four-step plan the next time you are asked to write a character reference.

1. Determine the Purpose of the Character Reference Letter
Why are you being asked to write this letter? Is it for employment purposes? To get into a specific program? Accepted to a particular school? It's important to understand what the purpose of the letter is so you can highlight the appropriate characteristics.

2. Make a List of Positive Attributes
Now jot down a quick list of positive attributes and characteristics of the person for whom you are writing the letter. Don't worry about grammar or spelling; just get the list down. If you need help remembering who the person is, look back at past performance reviews or records.

3. Link the Attributes to the Purpose of the Letter
Now choose which positive attributes match characteristics the recipient of the letter would like to see highlighted. Is this letter going to a dean of a college? Highlight academic efforts. To a potential employer? Highlight examples of responsibility. To a pastor of a church? Highlight examples of moral conviction. This should be accomplished in one paragraph of three to four sentences. If you are not a skilled writer, consider writing a bullet-point paragraph, such as the following example:

I feel Tina is qualified to be a counselor in your summer camp program because she is:

  • Organized
  • Responsible
  • Good with children
  • Creative
  • Energetic

4. Find One Specific Example That Exemplifies Character
It's tempting to write lengthy letters of recommendation that ramble on and on, but it's best to keep the letter short and to the point so it will get read. Write a one-paragraph story about a specific experience with the person in question where she displayed good character. Keep it short, but specific.

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