Tips on Character Reference Letters

Updated March 23, 2017

Friends, coworkers, family members or employees write character reference letters for a person to vouch for her character. The person in question requests this letter from a person she knows extremely well. The letter contains details about the subject including her skills, qualifications and character traits.


When writing a character reference letter, always keep the purpose of the letter in mind. These letters are typically requested for one of three different purposes: gaining employment or admission to a college, legal matters or for some type of non-employment related personal activity. If the purpose of the letter is to vouch for someone applying for a job or to a school, write about skills and qualifications you know the person has; include details about how you know these things and give examples. If the letter is for a legal matter and is requested for a court hearing, emphasise positive character traits. If it is for a non-employment related personal activity, point out any details that would benefit the subject's cause.

Keep It Short

Most people reading a character reference have a limited amount of time, so a character reference letter should be no longer than one page; this is normally enough space to include all necessary details. When writing this type of letter, separate it into three sections. Begin with an opening statement, move on to the body of the letter and end with a closing that summarises the details of the letter. Make every word in the letter count.

Include a Story

Stories about the person in question are a way to keep the letter interesting and also show the subject in a real life situation. Share a short story in the letter that demonstrates the subject's true character. This can be something that happened recently, at work or at home.

Details to Include

Several details should always be included in a character reference letter. Include the amount of time you have known the subject and how you know him. Offer details about yourself, such as qualifications, to improve your credibility with the reader. Never state the subject's weaknesses in a character reference; be truthful in all that you say, but avoid saying anything negative that might jeopardise the subject's opportunities.

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About the Author

Jennifer VanBaren started her professional online writing career in 2010. She taught college-level accounting, math and business classes for five years. Her writing highlights include publishing articles about music, business, gardening and home organization. She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting and finance from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.