Reference Letter Samples

Letters of Reference
Quick and easy: Instant download of 79 real-life reference letter templates -- here.

As I've pointed out in a number of my articles on this subject, there is a lot of confusion about the differences and similarities between reference letters and recommendation letters. For instance, which is which, and why?

It's confusing enough for the average person who only has to write one of these letters every once in a while. However, when you look into it in-depth as I have, and realize that many of the so-called "experts" don't even know the differences between a reference letter and a recommendation letter, the general confusion is very understandable.

I tried to demystify this confusion somewhat in a couple of articles I wrote a couple of years ago, and in the first version of my best selling book Instant Recommendation Letter Kit by drawing a bit of a line between reference letters and recommendation letters.

That helped, but it still left a gray area of overlap between the two.

Explaining The Confusion

Since then, I've been watching the whole issue carefully and have conducted additional research, leading me to conclude the following:

  1. Many people and institutions use the term "recommendation letter" to mean BOTH recommendation letters AND reference letters (about 2/3).

  2. Many people and institutions use the term "reference letter" to mean BOTH reference letters AND recommendation letters (about 1/3).

  3. Both groups are talking about essentially the same type of letter in their minds and they don't seem to draw any distinction between the two.

  4. Thus, those who use the term "recommendation letter" ALWAYS use that term. Those who use the term "reference letter" ALWAYS use that term.

… and "never the twain shall meet", as the saying goes.

So, for the purposes of this article on "reference letters" I am going to use the broad definitions that I have employed in the latest Revised Edition of Instant Recommendation Letter Kit, as follows:

Reference Letters "Defined"

Originally "reference letters" were general factual statements about someone and/or their situation that did not make any specific recommendation about the person.

I define it as a "reference letter" if it is somewhat general in nature, and is not addressed to a specific requestor. Typically "letters of reference" are addressed; "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam".

Normally, letters of reference include character reference letters and employment reference letters.

Reference Letter Samples

Following are three real-life sample template examples of typical reference letters:

Reference Letter - Character reference letter.

Letter of Reference - Business customer reference.

Reference letter - Teaching reference.

Reference Letter Strategy

In any case, somehow over the years the line between the two types of letters has become blurred and many people and institutions now use the two terms interchangeably. As far as those organizations are concerned both letters are exactly the same thing.

Accordingly, please note that many colleges and universities, as well as some companies and institutions, use the terms "reference letter" and/or "letter of reference" when referring to exactly the same thing as what many other colleges, universities, companies and institutions call "recommendation letters" and/or "letters of recommendation".

So when dealing with these types of institutions make sure you use whichever term they use in the same way that they use it. DON'T try to convert them to your terminology. That will just confuse things and you will pay the price.

For a similar discussion on "letters of recommendation" go to the following:
Letter of Recommendation Examples

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