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by Abigail Van Buren

Letters of Recommendation Aren't Guaranteed to Impress

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Lance," is making a career change and has been offered a great opportunity. He is very excited about it. Because his experience in this new field is minimal, Lance asked for letters of recommendation from some professionals who are familiar with his work. He was hoping the letters would provide insight into his abilities that his resume lacks at this early stage.

The problem? All three of the letters he has received contain glaring mistakes. They are all from college professors and on letterhead stationery. While they do offer glowing recommendations, one letter omitted an important word in a sentence, another misused a common word, and the third refers to Lance as "Ms."

I told Lance the letters do not reflect negatively on him because he didn't write them. But he thinks they will give the impression he associates with sub-par representatives of the field. He refuses to ask for new letters because he doesn't want to offend the writers by pointing out the errors. Should Lance use these letters? -- STUMPED IN TALLAHASSEE

DEAR STUMPED: What your letter illustrates is how many intelligent, professional people don't bother to proofread what they have written. Your husband should contact the individuals who provided the references and explain that he spotted a typographical error that should be easy to correct. That's not offensive -- it's doing the professors a favor as well as himself because what appears above their signature is a reflection on them and their attention to detail.