It’s long been my policy to post an ideal recommendation on my office door. That way even freshmen can see the virtues I value: conscientious attendance, winsome collaboration, imaginative work which marries theory and practice, and so on. When seniors request a letter, I ask them to bring examples of work which merits it or engage them in a conversation about which paragraphs to excise. The onus is thus on them from day one, and not on me to justify the language of a letter I will send to grad schools and employers. No point surprising student consumers in cap and gown when a letter on the first day of class gives them a bull’s eye to shoot for.