Tips for writing a strong Arts Award nomination letter

If you are a department chair or supervisor to someone whom you'd like to nominate for an Arts Award for excellence in research, teaching, or service, please read on for tips to write a strong Arts Award nomination letter.

  1. Follow the instructions.  Be sure to provide all information specifically requested (e.g., about the candidate’s position and/or career stage, about the time frame of contributions being discussed, etc.). If required, be sure to include the candidate’s CV or resume.
  2. Respect length limitations (750 words for letters).  Do not exceed this length, or your nomination may be eliminated.  At the same time, do not write too brief a letter; very short letters are usually letters short on detail, which will not be impressive of convincing.  In short, use all the space allowed—but no more.
  3. Where possible, use appropriate letterhead on your nomination letter, for a professional look.
  4. Provide concrete evidence to support your assertions about the candidate.  It is not enough, for example, to say that “X provided excellent service.”  You must offer details about exceptional contributions, describe impacts, perhaps quote words of praise or appreciation offered by others, provide relevant statistics that demonstrate excellence, etc.  
  5. Organize your letter effectively. For example, you might start with a clear statement of who you are nominating for which award/category, followed by a succinct summary of why you think this candidate deserves recognition.  Then use subsequent paragraphs to describe and detail the candidate’s accomplishments. Finally, conclude with a compelling summary that underscores the exceptional character of the candidate’s contribution(s) or achievement.
  6. Use comparisons to emphasize how the candidate stands out from their peers. For example, compare to what’s typical of others at a similar career stage or in a similar position, to normal productivity during a typical year, to what’s technically required in a job description, etc. In other words, make the case that the candidate has gone “over and above” what’s expected or required.
  7. Write in an engaging manner, so that the reader catches your enthusiasm for the candidate.  Use superlatives and strong adjectives where warranted, but do not exaggerate. Be precise in your word choice, compelling in your narrative examples, and strategic with your comparisons.  Avoid repetition, needlessly long sentences, and cliched language.  

Prepared January 2021.