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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.

DEAR ABBY: I am a mother and a stepmother and have several grandchildren. I have been the "family photographer" at all our events and holiday celebrations. Looking through our 35 years of photographs, you will rarely find me in one. I was always there -- but behind the camera.

I'd like to remind your readers that if they're at a gathering and see someone taking family photos, to please offer to use their camera to take a group picture that includes the photographer. It will be one of the few photos in their albums they actually appear in. And they'll be thankful for your thoughtfulness for years to come. -- INVISIBLE GRANDMA IN LAWRENCE, MASS.

DEAR INVISIBLE GRANDMA: With the holidays approaching, I'm pleased to print your suggestion. However, at large gatherings these days, there is bound to be someone in the group who has a camera -- or a cell phone -- with a timer so that everyone present (including the photographer) can appear in the picture.

DEAR ABBY: I recently went to a sporting goods store to buy new golf shoes. I had a $25-off coupon to be used on any apparel sold in the store.

When I presented the coupon, the store manager informed me that shoes are not considered "apparel" and he would not honor the discount! Aren't shoes considered to be apparel? -- BAREFOOT IN MIAMISBURG, OHIO

DEAR BAREFOOT: Yes, they are. And if there were any exclusions, they should have been mentioned on the coupon.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)