A guide to writing reference letters in English

Writing a great reference can be very time consuming. It needs to be personal and to strike the right note if it is to have the desired effect. It’s even harder if you are not writing in your own language. We’ve put together a short guide to writing a reference letter in English and have included a number of phrases which we hope you find helpful. 

Addressing a reference letter 
If you don’t know to whom the reference should be addressed or if the reference is general, you can write “To Whom it May Concern”. 

Starting a reference letter 
If the reference is for a specific position you could write “I would like to recommend Jane Bloggs for the position of … with your organisation.” If the reference is general you could write “I would like to recommend Jane Bloggs as a candidate for a position with your organisation.” 

20 useful phrases for references 
• a creative problem-solver 
• always cheerful and dependable 
• always meets his deadlines 
• always behaves professionally 
• her significant contributions to the company include… 
• a broad range of skills 
• always demonstrates integrity 
• pays careful attention to detail 
• exceeded expectations 
• has an excellent understanding of … 
• highly professional 
• greatly respected by colleagues and clients 
• has an excellent approach to … 
• is always willing to offer assistance with … 
• effectively managed … 
• has an excellent rapport with colleagues /suppliers/ customers 
• shows great work ethic and dedication 
• devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project 
• her enthusiasm is genuine and contagious 
• demonstrates unwavering commitment 

Be specific 
If possible, use numbers to quantify successes. For example, you might explain how much money the person made for your company, or how many customers the person interacted with on a daily basis. 

Final paragraph 
If the reference is for a specific position you could write “I can strongly recommend John for the position of …”. If the reference is general you could write “I am confident that Jane will make a fine addition to your organisation”. Alternatively “Jane would be an asset to any employer and I wholeheartedly recommend her for any endeavour she chooses to pursue.” 

You can finish off the letter with one of these sentences 
• Should you have any questions, I invite you to contact me. 
• If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me 
• You are welcome to contact me if you require any further information 

Signing off 
Sign letters addressed personally with 'Yours sincerely' and letters addressed impersonally with 'Yours faithfully'. Thus, if your salutation is “Dear X”, the corresponding valediction would be 'Yours sincerely'. If you start the letter with 'To whom it may concern' the corresponding valediction would be 'Yours faithfully'. 

We hope you find this advice useful. If you need further assistance with communication in English, please do not hesitate to contact us for editing services or English tuition. 

The London School of English offers high quality English language training for motivated adults from all professional backgrounds. We give you the tools and skills you need to communicate successfully in your field of expertise and to expand your business and career opportunities. Call us on +46 8 5999 4000or email us at info@londonschool.se for more information about our tailored tuition or simply take our online test to check your English level. 

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