What NOT to Say in Your Letters of Recommendation


Sometimes one comes across a letter of recommendation in which the author, presumably with good intentions, nonetheless says something that is bizarre, inappropriate, counterproductive, or downright creepy. In the interests of grad school applicants, job seekers, tenure candidates, etc., as well as those writing letters for them, I am opening up a thread here for examples of the kinds of statements you wish you hadn’t seen in letters of recommendation.

The purpose here is not to shame particular letter writers, but to help them from making the same mistakes again, and to help those they are recommending, so please refrain from naming the authors of these infelicitous passages.

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P.S. Relatedly, if you can, please help out on this post about tips for students writing letters in support of faculty.

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