Are these sentences neutral?

She primarily programmed in __ and also used __ to develop __.
She has working knowledge of version control primarily with Git as well as knowledge of object oriented programming and object oriented design methodology. Mrs. doe is hard-working and meticulous.

I am writing a neutral reference letter for an object-oriented software developer in Canada who voluntarily quit but had many interpersonal clashes with management (not necessarily her fault just didn't mesh well).

Here is the original letter:

Mrs. Jane Doe was employed by XYZ Inc. from _ to _ as a _. In that role, she had the following duties and responsibilities:


At first, her job duties focused on __ but then evolved to mainly __.

She tested of the following __ for production roll-out: __. Mrs. Doe contributed to the development of __. She was the sole __ on the __s.

[description of sucessful project]

We wish Mrs. Doe all the very best in her future endeavors. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

  • Did you delete your other question that I commented on? – HorusKol Jun 23 '16 at 5:09
  • Yeah I tried to split it into 2 questions. Do you think 'she is hard working and meticulous' is no longer neutral but rather positive? – Kerry Jun 23 '16 at 5:27
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    Instead of deleting the original question that was put on hold, you need to clarify what your goal is here. You still haven't specified what you think a neutral reference letter is or why you need one. VTC. – Lilienthal Jun 23 '16 at 8:35
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    I am trying and failing to see why anyone would want to write a neutral letter of recommendation. – HLGEM Jun 23 '16 at 13:21
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    @HLGEM My guess is that the letter is being written for the OP. OP doesn't feel confident that her employer will write her a good letter, so she probably wants to write it herself and get it "approved" and signed by them. (or something of that sort) – Masked Man Jun 24 '16 at 5:46

she is hard working and meticulous

This is your personal judgement, not a fact. So yes, this is no longer neutral.


There is no such thing as a neutral reference letter. No such thing.

There is

This person is amazing, hire this person, you won't regret it, here are several paragraphs of proof


Yes, this person worked here, I'm not saying anything else. Dates and job title. No reason for leaving, no list of duties or skills, no wishing of luck. Dates and job title.

Some people interpret the second kind as information-free, since some workplaces forbid any other kind of reference. They may be construed as neutral in that sense - they neither add nor subtract anything. Other people interpret the second kind as negative - I am forbidden to tell you the truth about how bad this person was so I will just give you facts.

The minute you start listing the specific skills the person had, or anything beyond name and job title, you have left the realm of the second letter and would be in the first, except you are not gushing about how amazing the person is so you must be secretly trying to convey that they are terrible. No amount of effort on your part will change this, other than transforming the letter into a paean to their perfection, which you probably don't want to do.

Write the second kind of letter. Offer to be a reference for the person, someone whose phone number and email is supplied "on request" - and in that less formal environment, answer questions the potential new employer asks. Don't try to write a letter that hits "just the right tone" - such a tone doesn't exist when it comes to references, and even if it did, each reader interprets a given letter differently.


she is hard working and meticulous

In many countries, that's quite damning. "Hard working" will be interpreted as "achieves nothing, no matter how hard she tries", and "meticulous" will be interpreted "gets held up by the smallest unimportant thing, unable to set priorities".

She has working knowledge of version control primarily with Git as well as knowledge of object oriented programming and object oriented design methodology.

That is just as bad. "Having knowledge" of something gets interpreted as "but messes it up in practice".

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    Must be some very strange English usage to come up with that interpretation of hardworking and meticulous – Pepone Jun 23 '16 at 9:17
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    @Pepone No, it's simply code. In some countries, e.g. Germany it is decreed by law that a letter of reference must be positive for the employee. You are legally not allowed to write "She was unable to complete the tasks" or "He made several blunders". So the people who write such letters came up with codes to rate an employee. For example "always shows effort" means, you never get anything done. "is a sociable person" means, you drink alcohol at work. Employees know all about those codes too (they are actually taught in school!). cont... – Dulkan Jun 23 '16 at 11:45
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    ...cont. This law has become pretty much irrelevant unless you remain ignorant of the codes and the only way to remain ignorant is by being an immigrant. So, it really only serves the detriment of foreigning starting to work in one such country and should certainly be reviewed. But at the moment, this is the reality. This of course only applies to a detailed letter of reference, wihch includes the opinion about your work and quality as an employee of your former employer. – Dulkan Jun 23 '16 at 11:46
  • @Dulkan ah so its a code to circumvent the law - maybe this is something the EU should clamp down on. – Pepone Jun 23 '16 at 14:46

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