Use standard formal letter writing conventions to begin. A letter of recommendation is like any other professional communication, and follows the same general rules and guidelines. Place your address on the top right, followed by the date—spelled out. Below that, on the left, place the recipient’s name (if known) and address. Open the letter with a formal business greeting. Ex: Dear Ms. Smith, Dear Sir or Madam, (if you don’t know the recipient’s name)
How do I approach potential letter writers? First, make a list of professors and/or supervisors who will be your best advocates. Then, set up an appointment to discuss your request in person. Do not make the request via email. Be prepared to articulate your interest and reasons for attending graduate school. Letters of recommendation are written strictly on a voluntary basis. The best approach is to ask potential letter writers if they are willing to write you a strong letter. If you sense reluctance or the answer is no, ask someone else.