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Learn2 Learn2 Write a Letter of Recommendation (continued)
Step 3: Organize and write the letter

A letter of recommendation can generally be broken down into four parts: your relationship with the person, his or her professional accomplishments and personal attributes, your overall opinion, and how you can be contacted.

When you're ready to hammer out your final draft, always type--something handwritten just shows you don't take the letter, or the person, seriously. Use high-quality paper. Use letterhead if possible--the company's, the school's, or your own. Here's a sample of how it should look:

The first paragraph should begin by stating in what capacity and for how long you've known the person you're recommending. If the person is a coworker or employee, specify the term of employment and responsibilities involved in the work. If necessary, connect the person's duties with the overall nature of the workplace, to give the reader a frame of reference. End the paragraph with a strong one-sentence summary of your opinion of the person.

In the next few paragraphs, get more in-depth by describing the person's professional accomplishments and personal attributes. Try to connect these two sides--was there a particular trait that helped the person stand out in his or her work? Was the person able to overcome certain obstacles, both personally and professionally?

The second to last paragraph should sum up your overall opinion of the person and his or her work, and how you envision the person's future potential--what he or she can contribute and their possibilities for growth. Finally, restate your support for the person's application.

End the letter with a short sentence or two that explains how you can be contacted if the recipient needs further information.

Remember: be specific, avoid vague, metaphoric writing (no "Bob has learned to spread his wings and fly"), and be positive without, of course, being ridiculous. Mail it off in the envelope and know that you've praised with precision.

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Step 1: Interview the person
Step 2: List the qualities
Step 3: Organize and write the letter