I am trying to write a recommendation letter. The following two sentences sound quite awkward. Is it correct? I mean what I am doing describing all the events on the past tense and on that base I am implying some attribute of the present (this is the only sentence in present tense).

He frequently interacted with teachers and colleagues on the subject and he demonstrated insight on what he studied. Also he possesses an excellent communication skill.

  • I am pretty sure that you shouldn't start a sentence with also in a formal context. – gtl_pm Nov 17 '11 at 15:20
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    Proofreading questions are off-topic here. – Peter Shor Nov 17 '11 at 15:32
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    See this handy diagram. – RegDwigнt Nov 17 '11 at 15:48
  • Fine, except that most linguists recognize only two tenses in English, present and past. – Barrie England Nov 17 '11 at 15:51
  • To actually answer your question, there is nothing at all wrong with your use of tenses; it's the other aspects of your letter that bother me. I don't like the phrase "on what he studied". It sounds too much like a form letter. If you're writing a recommendation for him, shouldn't you know what he studied? – Peter Shor Nov 17 '11 at 17:02

There's nothing wrong with the sentences you have written in the past tense. The use of present tense isn't wrong either, but an improved version of that sentence could be:

What is more, he was able to handle numerous occasions with excellent communication skills.

I thought of the verb demonstrate, which collocates with skills, but I didn't like the repetition.

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    The phrase "able to handle occasions" is not meaningful and contributes to verbosity. Perhaps say "His communication skills were excellent" instead. Or, if occasions and numerous other multisyllabic words are wanted, "His communication skills exhibited to excellent advantage on many occasions". – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 17 '11 at 16:32

Consider rephrasing as follows:

He frequently interacted with teachers and colleagues on the subject and he demonstrated insight on what he studied. He also frequently demonstrated excellent communication skills.

Using the word demonstrated (or synonyms of the word) allows the reader to make the connection that since he had excellent communication skills while you knew him he has excellent communication skills now.

Note: The word frequently isn't needed but some adverb would improve the quality of the sentence as it would provide more information about how or when he demonstrated excellent communication skills.

  • Is the word frequently really necessary there ? – gtl_pm Nov 17 '11 at 15:19
  • Good point, it isn't. It is more descriptive though. I'll make note of that. – ChrisM Nov 17 '11 at 15:26
  • Even I have a doubt on this usage - demonstrated insight. Can insight be demonstrated ? – gtl_pm Nov 17 '11 at 15:40
  • Demonstrating insight would be the same as to demonstrating wisdom or demonstrating the ability to process knowledge well. It is a legitimate sentence and does make sense. It does, however, sound like a filler sentence because it's so vague and doesn't really say anything significant. No employer will say, "Oh wow! He demonstrates insight? That's incredible! I can't remember that last time someone demonstrated insight." – ChrisM Nov 17 '11 at 16:15

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