Monday Productivity Pointers
Illustration by Neil Webb

Writing a letter of recommendation


Monday Productivity Pointers

with Jess Stratton

Video: Writing a letter of recommendation

I'm Jess Stratton and welcome to Monday Productivity Pointers. You may not know this about me, but the degree that I graduated in is in communication studies. So knowing this, I get asked to write a lot of letters of recommendations from friends, family members, and colleagues. I figured that the chances are pretty good that you'll be asked to write one one day, if you haven't already. So I thought I'd share what I've learned about writing a good letter of recommendation. Now, there's two really good benefits to knowing how to write one of these.
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  1. 10h 57m
    1. Welcome to the series
      1m 13s
    2. Running a group meeting with coworkers
      7m 19s
    3. Recording and marketing chat on air
      8m 30s
    4. Creating a quick presentation
      5m 37s
    5. Presenting from an iPad or computer
      3m 36s
    6. Migrating your accounts to
      9m 55s
    7. Setting budgets and goals
      7m 4s
    8. Collaborating on team documents
      5m 53s
    9. Creating an online photo gallery
      4m 58s
    10. Kickstarter: Setting up your project
      10m 41s
    11. Driving traffic to your project
      5m 48s
    12. Conducting a voice call with a virtual team
      6m 40s
    13. Adding video and chat notifications
      4m 7s
    14. Accepting a payment with Square
      4m 35s
    15. Using the Square Wallet
      2m 32s
    16. Setting up shop on Etsy
      6m 31s
    17. Tracking your Etsy sales with Shop Stats
      4m 9s
    18. Raising your Klout score
      7m 3s
    19. Earning Klout perks
      4m 55s
    20. Skydrive: Collaborating on team documents
      4m 56s
    21. Skydrive: Accessing files on the go
      2m 57s
    22. Setting up Google alerts to track your data
      5m 5s
    23. Removing a page from the Google search index
      4m 42s
    24. Browsing privately in public
      4m 38s
    25. Cleaning up your session before logging out
      5m 8s
    26. Troubleshooting a remote computer with TeamViewer
      3m 42s
    27. Taking screenshots from a PC
      4m 12s
    28. Taking screenshots from a Mac
      3m 36s
    29. Setting up Find My iPhone
      3m 36s
    30. Using iCloud to find an iPhone
      3m 49s
    31. Sampling color from the screen
      5m 27s
    32. Using for inspiration
      3m 22s
    33. Get an audio clip onto YouTube using iPhoto
      5m 49s
    34. Creating playlists and customizing your YouTube channel
      5m 41s
    35. Record your screen using QuickTime
      3m 14s
    36. Record your screen using CamStudio
      2m 34s
    37. Using Tempo Smart Calendar when you are going to be late
      3m 9s
    38. Using Twist to let your customers know where you are
      3m 38s
    39. Using Wunderlist to track multiple projects
      9m 0s
    40. Use the Wunderlist browser extension to create tasks on the web
      5m 46s
    41. Using Smart Mailboxes with Mac Mail
      6m 52s
    42. Customizing the Mac Mail View
      7m 13s
    43. What's a firewall?
      7m 36s
    44. What is the Cloud?
      4m 42s
    45. Creating your own recipe with IFTTT
      7m 19s
    46. Browsing existing recipes with IFTTT
      5m 7s
    47. Installing the Feedly browser extension
      6m 34s
    48. Customizing Feedly
      6m 53s
    49. Understanding the basics of Twitter
      9m 9s
    50. Using Tweetdeck to handle multiple accounts
      9m 14s
    51. Working with URL Shorteners
      5m 45s
    52. Using
      8m 31s
    53. Creating Quick Parts to re-use text
      6m 19s
    54. Moving your Autotext to a new computer
      6m 7s
    55. Shutting off access to social networks
      6m 18s
    56. Hiding taskbars
      2m 36s
    57. Exploring the iOS 7 Update
      10m 7s
    58. Running a productive online meeting
      3m 44s
    59. Getting meeting minutes faster
      6m 47s
    60. TextExpander for Mac
      7m 6s
    61. Breevy for Windows
      3m 44s
    62. Using Smart Folders on a Mac
      5m 52s
    63. Using Windows Libraries
      4m 25s
    64. Finding large attachments in your email apps
      5m 13s
    65. Use Ninite to install all your PC apps at once
      3m 30s
    66. Use Get Mac Apps to install your Mac apps at once
      2m 56s
    67. Creating a disposable email address with Guerrilla mail
      4m 7s
    68. Creating an email address that lasts only 10 minutes
      3m 16s
    69. Finding and adding local vendors to enhance your iOS reminders
      3m 45s
    70. Adding geofencing to Find My Friends
      3m 20s
    71. Turning a Word document contract into a PDF
      4m 1s
    72. Turning a PowerPoint presentation into a PDF
      4m 10s
    73. Resetting browser site passwords
      7m 11s
    74. Disabling toolbars, resizing screens, and accidentally closed tabs
      7m 42s
    75. Identifying your wifi's weakest link
      7m 59s
    76. Setting up dual band speed on your router
      7m 36s
    77. Add your social media activity to your website
      8m 54s
    78. Using WordPress mobile to update on the go
      4m 48s
    79. Matching the header row on your spreadsheet files
      8m 20s
    80. Using a formula to merge first and last name columns
      5m 58s
    81. Using JoliDrive to browse cloud app data
      5m 11s
    82. Using JoliDrive on an iPad
      4m 31s
    83. Finding deals on eBay using misspelled listings
      4m 18s
    84. Searching for promotional and coupon codes online
      5m 52s
    85. Sending real postcards from your computer with Postagram
      4m 25s
    86. Using Postagram to send a real postcard from your smartphone
      3m 55s
    87. Getting to Inbox Zero
      11m 4s
    88. Using existing GMail labels with Mailbox
      3m 19s
    89. Adding 2-step authentication
      3m 39s
    90. Enabling in-app PIN codes
      3m 31s
    91. Accessing your digital movies
      5m 20s
    92. Copying movies onto a device
      3m 25s
    93. Using Genius Scan to scan your documents
      3m 34s
    94. Sending your scans
      2m 41s
    95. Using Acrobat to ink sign a PDF
      4m 49s
    96. Writing a letter of recommendation
      7m 49s
    97. Constructing a successful press release
      4m 48s
    98. Troubleshooting wireless security
      4m 48s
    99. Writing a claim letter
      5m 22s
    100. The best reasons to try online chat customer service
      5m 9s
    101. How to do a firmware update
      6m 34s
    102. Siri, your iPhone assistant
      4m 48s
    103. Writing an email that gets read
      4m 51s
    104. Writing an email that requires action
      2m 54s
    105. Your Blu-ray questions answered
      3m 50s
    106. Using LittleBit to photograph your goal progress
      3m 9s
    107. Exporting WordPress blog entries
      3m 28s
    108. Understanding how Office 365 works
      5m 9s
    109. Using Waze for crowdsourced GPS
      2m 58s
    110. Downloading your Facebook timeline
      3m 10s
    111. Scheduling email with Boomerang
      4m 24s
    112. Google Labs for Calendar
      2m 58s
    113. Finding missing songs in iTunes on your iPhone
      2m 10s
    114. Requesting your Twitter archive
      2m 59s
    115. Using Doodle for easy group scheduling
      4m 59s
    116. Easily remote to another computer with
      3m 47s
    117. Keyboard shortcuts for YouTube
      2m 58s
    118. Easily annotate images with Skitch
      6m 4s
    119. Migrating to Google Apps
      9m 31s
    120. Get your Google Calendar schedule by email every morning
      3m 3s
    121. Blurring photos for posting on social networks
      6m 41s
    122. Using supplemental To Do apps
      3m 43s
    123. Getting alerts for Amazon price drops
      2m 36s
    124. Four tips to teach kids about websites
      8m 19s
    125. Caring for family members from afar
      4m 39s
    126. Using Google Sheets to make templates
      4m 35s

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Watch the Online Video Course Monday Productivity Pointers
10h 57m Appropriate for all Mar 25, 2013 Updated Oct 20, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube,, Etsy, and more. Learn about topics ranging from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.

Note: Monday Productivity Pointers is currently on a break, but stay tuned for new tutorials!

Business Education + Elearning
Jess Stratton

Writing a letter of recommendation

I'm Jess Stratton and welcome to Monday Productivity Pointers. You may not know this about me, but the degree that I graduated in is in communication studies. So knowing this, I get asked to write a lot of letters of recommendations from friends, family members, and colleagues. I figured that the chances are pretty good that you'll be asked to write one one day, if you haven't already. So I thought I'd share what I've learned about writing a good letter of recommendation. Now, there's two really good benefits to knowing how to write one of these. The first one is you won't have to stress about writing it, because it can be very stressful.

And two, you're giving your subject, who you're writing the letter for, the best possible chance so that they get the job or the admission or whatever you're writing the letter for. There's a lot riding on your shoulders when you write a letter like this. So hopefully I can show you how to make it as best as it can possibly be. I'm actually going to show you two examples of real letters of recommendations that I've written for people over the years. To make this easy, I've compartmentalized it into four important facts.

So knowing and remembering these four facts will make this a very easy process for you. The first fact is brevity, shortness. When you're writing your letter of recommendation it shouldn't be longer than one page. So right away there's some constraints, that will make it a lot easier. Now, fact number two, you need to remember that it's a formal document. And your subject, who you're writing the letter for, deserves you to take it very seriously. So knowing the structure of how the letter needs to be written is just as important as the content.

And we're going to talk about that. Fact number thee Is that you need to know something first. You need to know what you're writing the letter of recommendation for. For example, is it for a college admission or a job. If it's for a job what type of job. And then finally, the last fact, what specific example can you give about your subject. You'll need those. So knowing these things will make writing your letter extremely easy once they're all in place.

And in fact, you can write down each of these things on a paper to get your outline. Then again, not knowing these facts will make writing the letter next to impossible. You need to know specific examples about who you're writing the letter for, and you need to know why you're writing it. So let's move on to the letter. I've actually got it open on the screen. We need to start with the structure first. So, always, the date goes on top followed by an address block underneath it, or who you're writing the letter to.

Now, if you don't know, it's okay to just include a date. You then need to follow it up with the recipient. Now, because it's a formal letter, instead of a comma, you're going to put a colon at the end of it. For example, I'm addressing this to Carla Anderson. From the admissions office of a university. So I'm writing this letter on behalf of a student to get into this particular college. Her name's Carla Anderson. So I'm going to write, Dear Ms. Anderson and put a colon on it. In your opening paragraph, you always need to start out with how you know the subject.

So you are going to talk about your relationship with the subject. You also do need to state that it is indeed a Letter of Recommendation. For example, I started off my letter by writing, I am writing on behalf of Karen Arena, a remarkable young woman, who I have had the pleasure of watching grow over the years at Volunteer Agency. A non profit agency. So, I've definitely have established right away how I know this person and how long I've known this person. In the second paragraph and possibly a third, if there is one, remember it can be brief.

You need to state how quality of the subject is fitting for the role that the letter of recommendation is for. You want both the subject and the reader of the letter to find your letter perfectly suited to the need. Use specific examples. So this is why I said right in the beginning that if you have these specific examples in place, if you can sit down and brainstorm those first. It's going to make writing the actual letter easy. Now you can also write comparatively. Why are you impressed by this person, especially based on those examples.

In this case I decided to use the student's leadership examples. That's what I wanted to use as a focus of letter for the recommendation. So I gave examples about how she volunteers all the time. And how she is always smiling every time she volunteers. I also gave specific examples of how she exhibits a natural maturity in leadership, and her friends also follow her to these events. So I am citing specific examples.

In the next paragraph, I also cited a specific example of how she helped fill a bowling alley with volunteers for our fund raiser. So those are some great qualities that she has, and it helps tie in how I'm illustrating her leadership abilities. Finally, I needed one closing paragraph. On how she'll be a great fit for the organization. Moving on with the structure of the letter, because it's a formal business letter, I'm going to end with Sincerely and leave a space here so that I can put my signature in here.

And then I'm going to close with my name, possibly address, but I definitely want to put my contact information in here so that they can contact me if they need to. And then I can send it off to my subject. I'm going to open up another example down here. This is an example where I knew what I was writing for. I was writing this letter of recommendation. So somebody could get a job, however I didn't know the exact name. So I included the date, but I left the address out and the recipient I sent it To Whom It May Concern.

Now notice that I still put the colon in here. Again, in the opening paragraph, I say I am writing a Letter of Recommendation and I describe how I know the subject. Now in this letter, I decided to focus specific examples of how wonderful her children are, and how that's a direct response to how great of a person she is. So, I gave specific examples of how great her children are, such as having her sense of humor And what a family oriented lifestyle she is, so there's some specific examples, and finally a brief closing sentence.

Again, I put the sincerely, and my contact information, and leave enough space so that I can sign it. There's one more thing that I absolutely need to mention here. It's perfectly okay to decline writing a letter of recommendation, especially if you know you can't give one. It could be a time justification because it does takes some time to sit down and do this and you may not have it but also you may not feel like you can give somebody a good recommendation. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with this.

Don't ever ruin your integrity. That doesn't help anybody especially you. So its just as important to know how decline writing a letter as it is to write one. So don't ever be afraid to simply say I'm sorry, but I don't feel like I have enough information or a time commitment to be able to properly give a letter to you any justice. So knowing that if you ever get asked to write a letter of recommendation hopefully you can remember these important facts, outline it, and then writing your letter will be a breeze.

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