Writing a letter of recommendation via email: in body or as attachment?
November 14, 2013 6:06 AM   Subscribe

A question about writing letters of recommendation. Specifically, when the letters are not hand-written and snail mailed, but are emailed instead.

My wife's been asked by an intern to write a letter of recommendation for the intern. The recipient of the letter has asked that it arrive via email. Would typing the letter in the body of the email decrease the perceived value of it, or would it be better to send an email with the letter as an attachment (PDF, .doc, etc)?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would send it as an attachment, in case the recipient wants to print it and keep it on file. Just more professional imo.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:08 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, attach it as a PDF.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:10 AM on November 14, 2013

I agree - an attachment is better. You can also sign it, then scan to pdf.
posted by lulu68 at 6:11 AM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: I have been party to a number of recommendation processes and I can confirm that the best way to do it is to write it as a formal business letter (preferably on letterhead if your wife's organization has it), print it out, sign it, scan it and attach it as a PDF. This means that when the document arrives, no one can tamper with it, so there's never any question that it's been tampered with on their end; no amount of forwarding will mess up the format and make it look unprofessional; and your intent is absolutely clear because your formatting is preserved.
posted by Frowner at 6:14 AM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

I might create it as a PDF to be attached, but then also copy-paste it into the body of the email as well. You could add a line to the body of the email after your signature that says something like "The above message is also available as an attached PDF for your convenience" or something.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:14 AM on November 14, 2013

Whenever I have to do an official letter via email, I like to cover my bases and do it both ways. That way if the attachment fails and they have time to get in touch with me for a new one, or if the problem persists, then they can print off the email and have something to show.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

2nding Rock Steady (and the Underpants Monster). I do it both ways.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:35 AM on November 14, 2013

Definitely attachment, PDF is preferred. Usually (where I work at least), an admin of some kind compiles (digital) files for each applicant for a position from the various things they receive by email, mail, web forms, etc. In my experience it is highly unpredictable what format an in-body email recommendation ends up in as part of the compiled file; sometimes it isn't readable and requires some back-and-forth with the admin and/or IT to figure out the right format and how to get it into that format, and so people's first pass over the file won't even include that letter. For this reason, I actually wouldn't even do it both ways, since maybe the admin won't see or will just ignore the attachment.
posted by advil at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2013

Thirding both in the email body and as a PDF. There are so many different ways attachments can be stripped off of emails, particularly when coming from a novel email address and into a corporate system that may send the email through several different spam and virus filtering appliances before it gets to its intended recipient.
posted by rockindata at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2013

If you can swing it: Sign a blank sheet, scan in the signature, save as image file, embed in document (best bet: if using MS Word, place it in the header, then move it into position; set position to "behind text" and allow overlap. Move/resize and position where you want it.)

THEN print to PDF, and save. Printing, signing and scanning is much less clean than saving directly to PDF, and will have the advantage of retaining embedded text; if using letterhead, it will also not degrade the image quality of any graphics in the letterhead template.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2013

If you’re using (or have access to) a Mac, there’s an easier way to get your signature on a PDF than caution live frogs’ method above: you can capture your signature with your Mac’s built-in camera and apply it to any PDF you can open in Preview. See here for instructions.

So you could, for instance, print to PDF in Word, open the PDF in Preview, apply your signature there, save the PDF, and attach it to your e-mail. No bulky raster background required.
posted by letourneau at 12:10 PM on November 14, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry for the late followup. She wrote the letter on company letterhead, printed it, signed it, scanned it, and attached that as a PDF.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2014

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