Q: What should I avoid when writing an honours nomination?

Avoid these pitfalls and give yourself the best possible chance of success. As you would expect, honours committees judge a candidate’s merits only on the information provided to them. Therefore, only the strongest nominations will be successful.

You must provide enough information in the nomination to make a good case. So your nomination shouldn’t be:

  • an extended CV.
  • a list of educational achievements.
  • a list of appointments, awards or posts; or
  • a job description showing what the person is meant to do.

The Cabinet Office also points out that because poor citations are often simply a list of these things, a frequent complaint from committees is that the person recommended is “doing no more than their job” or “doing nothing that stands out”.

Never stipulate the level of honour, that’s for the Cabinet Office to decide. Don’t put ‘This person deserves a knighthood/damehood’ in every other paragraph as you are sure to irritate all concerned!

Never ‘over egg’ an achievement or seek to mislead the Cabinet Office. You will lose all credibility, fast.

Be polite and endearing in your tone but don’t creep!

Avoid having too many staff members as supporters unless there is a clear reason e.g. to demonstrate what an extraordinary employer the nominee is. Same applies to family members, although it is fine to have a close family member nominate you as these people are often best positioned to know the challenges the nominee has faced or obstacles they have overcome to get where they are today.

Avoid technical jargon as much as you can. Clearly, that may be necessary if nominating an eminent surgeon, academic etc but try to keep it to a minimum. Clearly, the objective here is to capture the interest of the judges, not bore them in to submission!

Ultimately, the nomination should describe what is special about nominee’s achievements and show memorably and persuasively how and where they have made a difference.