How to Write Personal Character References

Updated November 21, 2016

Being asked to write a personal character reference is both a compliment and a responsibility. Your letter can be helpful in a wide range of situations, such as employment or college applications, court appearances, club or association membership or adoption proceedings. Character references are less formal than employment references and are also more subjective because you give your opinion of a person rather than detailing specific facts about on-the-job performance. Help your friends achieve their goals by creating a personal character reference that will make them stand out from the crowd.

Head the letter with your address and contact details, then add the date

Write the name, title and address of the person to whom the letter will be sent.

Add a salutation to the letter: Mr. Smith or Ms. Brown. If you don't know the name, you can address the letter to "Dear Employer."

Create a heading by writing the name of the person the letter is about.

Write an initial paragraph to outline your relationship with the person, how you know the person and for what period of time. For example, "I have known David Smith for five years in his capacity of club treasurer for the association of which I am a member."

Write a second paragraph that gives examples of how the person will be good for the job. Focus on two or three key attributes and describe these using positive adjectives. For example, if the character reference is for employment as a bank officer, focus on honesty, trustworthiness and accuracy. If the letter is for a college application then describe intelligence, motivation and commitment.

For example, " Throughout his school career, David has always been a quick learner and has obtained consistently high examination results. He has always been fully committed to his education, often forgoing extra-curricular activities to focus on his studies."

Give your overall opinion of the person and your recommendation.

For example, " I have no hesitation in recommending David for this position, and I am sure his knowledge will be an asset to your organisation."

Close your letter with "Sincerely," and add your name and signature.


Always use good quality, white paper and type or print the letter if possible. Ensure it has a recent date to give the best possible impression.


Only write a letter of reference if you feel that you can honestly reflect the person's attributes in a positive way. If you have nothing positive to say, it is better to decline the request. Remember never to defame a person.

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