I'm writing a recommendation letter for a candidate that wants to pursue MSc program abroad. I've known the candidate since his first year of undergraduate studies and also I included him in some personal projects of mine. However, I wonder how should I address him in the letter. These are the options:

  1. Address him by last name only:

    Mr. Doe was...

  2. Address him as 'the candidate':

    The candidate's motivation...

Any opinions on which one is preferred?

  • 6
    In certain fields, the first name may prevail: "John was ..."
    – Leon Meier
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 17:35
  • 5
    I think either method will be fine. Note, however, that you are not "addressing" him, you are "discussing" him.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


You are writing on behalf of the applicant, and are supposed to be providing information that shows how well you know the applicant's strengths and weaknesses. That knowledge is more convincingly implied if you refer to the candidate by her name, rather than as "the candidate" or "the applicant."

Also, most good letters of recommendation I've seen actually refer to the candidate by her first name, rather than as "Ms. Doe."

  • 1
    But don't forget to mention the full name once in the beginning.
    – user64845
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 19:12
  • 2
    +1 for the answer. I find it convenient to use the full name once. For example, "I am writing this letter of reference for Mr. Coder Alive. ... Coder has been involved with me in my present project on how to answer question on academia..."
    – Coder
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 19:18
  • 2
    +1 for the answer. Although referring to someone using his first name is common mostly in anglosaxon culture, while other nations prefer the use of First+Last name.
    – famargar
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 20:11
  • 1
    Plus, then there is no baggage of choosing a specific title for a woman. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 22:38

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