Character Reference Guidelines
If someone has asked you to write a character reference for him/her, it means that you must know the person pretty well, and are willing to attest to that person's character.
People ask for character references for college and job applications, court sentencing, military enrollment, housing, and much more. There are general rules you can follow for writing any kind of character reference letter, but keep in mind that certain recipients, like colleges and courts, have specific rules for what they want to see in the letter, as well as who can write the letter in the first place. Pay attention to any instructions given to you by the person requesting the letter.
Basically, you want to convince the recipient of the good character of the letter's subject. You presumably like this person about whom you're writing, so write something that will make the recipient feel the same way.
Begin by stating how you know the person, and for how long. Longer is better, obviously, because it means you've had a chance to witness many aspects of the subject's personality. But bear in mind that in many cases, like in court, your letter acts as sworn testimony, so lying in the letter is the same as lying verbally on the witness stand. So don't lie, on this or any other matter in the letter, even if you think it may help the other person.
The next step is to address some of the subject's positive qualities. This is the meat of the letter. Character reference letters should always be positive; there is no point in bringing up anything negative, so avoid that altogether. Be generic if you need to, discussing how the person is "kind" or "generous," but understand that specific examples will be regarded more favorably. So, for instance, tell the recipient that the subject has "integrity," but then try to back that up with some sort of story if you can.
Finish the letter by reaffirming your belief in the subject's character, as well as your solid recommendation (for a job, admission to college, etc.), if applicable.
Keep the character reference relatively short, as in no more than one page. You should be able to highlight the subject's qualifications in that amount of space. Any longer, and you run the risk of not having someone read your entire letter. And if you've put any of the important stuff near the bottom, that could be a big problem.
Remember to include any contact information, in case the recipient needs to contact you for any additional questions.
Index of Character Reference Letter Examples