Thursday, March 02, 2006

Writing Recommendations

  1. One consequence of teaching better students is now I get asked to write a lot more recommendation letters. Before most of my letter-writing requests were from students who were getting kicked out of school and needed faculty to vouch for them; it's easy to decline such requests from students who did poorly in my class.

  2. In an alarming trend, I am now being asked to give the letter to the student to submit to the agency or program. I've been putting paper letters in sealed envelopes (and signing across the seal). One of my students needs a .pdf letter, so such tricks won't work. It's much harder to write a letter when the student is going to read it!

  3. I struggle anyway with writing good letters. Yes, I've read Gallian's article about how to write a letter. I have a hard time thinking of things to write about. I need a deck of prompts in which I choose one prompt from each category and then string my responses together into a letter.

  4. Then there's the issue of the .pdf. Sure I could tex the letter, xerox it onto letterhead, sign it, and then scan the finished document. But I desire a paperless workflow. Unfortunately, I can't get the letter document class to play niceley with my scan of my department's letterhead. I could merge a blank sheet of letterhead with the .pdf document in Illustrator, but that seems overboard. I will probably spend more time creating an elegant solution to the .pdf problem than to writing the letter.