I’ve just written my first recommendation for a student. She’s a wonderful student, so it’s a pleasure, and it’s just to the faculty so she’ll get a bit of funding to go to a conference she’s impressively enough had a paper accepted at – but I’ve never written a letter of recommendation before! I ran down the corridor searching for colleagues to help me, but they were all teaching – until I found one of my old literature professors, who smilingly dictated the first two formulaic lines of a letter of recommendation: Stud. philol. NN har henvendt seg til meg… Jeg kan med dette bekrefte at jeg er veileder for kandidaten og kjenner henne som en…. I ran back to my office so I could type them in before I forgot them. They sound stiff and unfamiliar, but until I find my own words for such purposes, I’m glad to have hand-me-downs. And who knows, perhaps the faculty would be shocked if I used my own words?

2 thoughts on “second hand words

  1. Norman

    The key point with letters of recommendation is to acquire a reputation for being reliable. Once you have that, you have everything you need.

  2. Jamie

    Reliability is very important but when people don’t know who you are then you also have to include phrases that help readers to position you. Things like `of the 100 students I have supervised over the past 20 years’ show not only the comparitor group but also indicate your reliability.

    About the stiffness of the language: since the subject of the reference is often legally required to have access to the letter people are careful about what they write so as not to offend. People who read the letters get used to seeking metasyntactic cues such as: does the recommender speak more about the importance of the research project than the person who conducted the work, do they conclude with hearty or unqualified recommendation? Do they say that they would hire this person if they applied for a job?

    (P.S.: I’m sure *you* wrote a great letter.)

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