Identify your purpose and audience. Before you get started writing, you need to know who you’re writing for. Your bio is your first introduction to your audience. It should quickly and effectively communicate who you are and what you do. 
- The bio you would write for a personal web page might be very different than the bio you would write for a college application. Adjust your tone to make your bio appropriately formal, funny, professional, or personal.
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Look at examples directed toward your target audience. One of the best ways to understand what your audience will expect from your bio is to look at the bios others in your field have written. For example, if you’re writing a professional bio for your website in order to market yourself and your skills, look at websites created by others in your field. See how they present themselves, and figure out what you think they do well.
- Good places to look for professional bios could be professional websites, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn pages.
Narrow down your information. Be ruthless here—–even the most interesting of anecdotes may not be appropriate. For example, an author’s bio on a book jacket often mentions past writing accomplishments, whereas an athlete’s bio on a team website often mentions the person’s height and weight. While it’s often okay to add a few extraneous details, they should not make up the majority of your bio.
- Remember that your credibility is important here. While you may enjoy going on pub crawls with your buddies on a weekend, that may not be what you want to advertise in a bio aimed at finding a job. Keep your details relevant and informative.
Write in the third person . Writing in the third person will make your bio sound more objective – like it’s been written by someone else – which can be useful in a formal setting. Experts recommend that you always write professional bios in the third person.
- For example, begin your bio with a sentence such as “Joann Smith is a graphic designer in Boston,” rather than “I am a graphic designer in Boston.”
Begin with your name. This should be the first thing you write. Assume that the people reading the bio know nothing about you. Give your full preferred name, but avoid nicknames.
- For example: Dan Keller
State your claim to fame. What are you known for? What do you do for a living? How much experience or expertise do you have? Don’t leave this to the end or make your readers guess—they won’t and they may well lose interest quickly if it’s not up front. This should be explicitly stated in the first or second sentence. Usually, combining it with your name is easiest.
- Dan Keller is a columnist for the Boulder Times.
Mention your most important accomplishments, if applicable. If you have earned achievements or awards that are relevant, include them. However, this element is tricky and might not be applicable in all situations. Remember that a bio is not a resume. Do not simply list your accomplishments; describe them. Remember that your audience may have no idea what these accomplishments are unless you tell them.
- Dan Keller is a columnist for the Boulder Times. His 2011 series “All that and More” earned him Boulder’s prestigious “Up-and-Comer” award for innovation.
Include personal, humanizing details. This is a nice way to invite the reader to care. It’s also your chance to get some of your personality across. However, avoid too much self-deprecation in your tone, and don’t include details that are too intimate or potentially embarrassing for either you or your audience. Ideally, these personal details will serve as conversation-starters should you meet your audience in real life. 
- Dan Keller is a columnist for the Boulder Times. His 2011 series “All that and More” earned him Boulder’s prestigious “Up-and-Comer” award for innovation. When he isn’t glued to a computer screen, he spends time working in the garden, learning French, and trying very hard not to be the worst pool player in the Rockies.
Conclude by including information on any projects you have in the works. For example, if you’re a writer, state the title of the new book you’re working on. This should be kept to a sentence or two.
- Dan Keller is a columnist for the Boulder Times. His 2011 series “All that and More” earned him Boulder’s prestigious “Up-and-Comer” award for innovation. When he isn’t glued to a computer screen, he spends time working in the garden, learning French, and trying very hard not to be the worst pool player in the Rockies. He is currently working on a memoir.
Include contact information. This is usually done in the last sentence. If it’s to be published online, be careful with the email address in order to avoid spam. Many people write email addresses online as something like: greg (at) fizzlemail (dot) com. If space permits, include a couple of ways of contacting you, such as your Twitter profile or a LinkedIn page.
- Dan Keller is a columnist for the Boulder Times. His 2011 series “All that and More” earned him Boulder’s prestigious “Up-and-Comer” award for innovation. When he isn’t glued to a computer screen, he spends time working in the garden, learning French, and trying very hard not to be the worst pool player in the Rockies. He is currently working on a memoir. You can reach him at dkeller (at) email (dot) com or on Twitter at @TheFakeDKeller.
Aim for at least 250 words. For an online blurb, this is just enough to give the reader a taste of your life and personality without becoming a bore. Avoid a profile that is longer than 500 words.
Proofread and revise. Rarely is writing perfect the first time it hits the pages. And because personal bios are only a small snapshot of a person’s life, upon rereading your bio, you might realize there was information you forgot to include.
- Have a friend read your bio and give you their feedback. This is important because they can tell you if all the information you want to get though is coming across clearly.
Keep your bio up to date. Every once in a while, go back and update your bio. By putting in a little work frequently to keep it up to date, you’ll save yourself a lot of work when you need to use it again.
Method Two of Three:
Writing a Bio for a College Application Edit
Tell a story. The structure outlined above probably won’t apply for most college entrance exams: though its simplicity makes it very handy for quick, inconspicuous bios, the whole point when applying to college is to stand out. The best way to do this is to make the structure your own by telling a story, not outlining key factoids. There are many possible structures to choose from, including:
- Chronological. This structure starts at the beginning and ends at the end. It’s the most straightforward and works well if you’ve had an interesting life that has taken you from A to B to C in unusual or impressive ways (for example, truly beating the odds).
- Circular. This structure start at an important or climactic moment (D), backtracks (A), and then explains all the events leading up to that moment (B, C), eventually bringing the reader full circle. This is good for building suspense, especially when Event D is so strange or unbelievable that the reader doesn’t mind being led around for a bit.
- Zoomed In. This structure focuses on one critical event (for example, C) to symbolically tell a larger story. It might use a few small, surrounding details (a, d) to orient the reader, but otherwise, the moment is important enough to stand on its own.
Keep the focus on yourself. Colleges want to hear your life story so that they can figure out whether or not you’re a good fit for them. That said, showing how good a match you are for the school doesn’t mean getting sidetracked by trying to describe the school as well.
- Incorrect. “UCSF has one of the top-ranked research-based med schools in the world, which would provide me with the foundation necessary to achieve my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.”
The school you’re applying to already knows what its programs and facilities are like, so don’t waste the reader’s time. On top of that, praising the school at the expense of describing yourself makes you sound unworthy to attend.
This description of the narrator is on-point, personal, and memorable. Though it still subtly praises the UCSF facilities, it doesn’t sound like it’s trying to score brownie points.
Don’t say what you think the board wants to hear. Even if you manage to do it well, which is hard when you’re not inspired by truth, the best that will happen is that you will seem like hundreds or thousands of other students who used the same strategy. Instead, talk about what’s real and what matters to you. Don’t have the most amazing life? Embrace it – and whatever you do, don’t fight above your weight class. Trying to force a ho-hum story to be more dramatic will just make it look silly, especially compared to the truly epic tales some of your co-applicants will have.
- Incorrect. “Reading The Great Gatsby was a pivotal moment in my life that made me completely rethink my own preconceptions about what it means to live in modern America. Thanks to that assignment, I now know I want to pursue American Studies.”
- Correct. “My family’s ties to this country aren’t particularly glamorous. We didn’t arrive on the Mayflower, or have our surname butchered at Ellis Island, or receive amnesty after fleeing a foreign dictatorship. What we did is settle in four states across the Midwest, where we’ve lived happily for over a hundred years. The magic of that simple act isn’t lost on me, which is why I’ve chosen to major in American Studies.”
Don’t try too hard to sound smart. That’s what your SATs were for. While you shouldn’t use slang or dumb your essay down, your content should speak for itself; going nutty with the vocabulary will just be a distraction. Plus, the admissions board slogs through you-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-many essays every year, and the last thing they want to hear is another person trying to wrestle a five-syllable word into a place where it has no earthly business. 
- Incorrect. “Having had a rather minimalistic upbringing, I find that I continue to assiduously value hard work and frugality above all else.”
Unless you’re a Dickensian countess or one of Jane Austen’s comic relief characters, this just doesn’t work. It sounds like you’re trying too hard.
Impactful and to-the-point – all with no words longer than two syllables.
Show, don’t tell. This is one of the most important things you can do to help your bio stand out. Many students will state things like “I learned a valuable lesson from this experience” or “I developed a new understanding of X.” Showing through concrete detail is much more effective. 
- Incorrect. “I learned a lot from my experience as a camp counselor.”
This says nothing about what you actually learned, and is a sentence that will probably be in hundreds of college bios.
Use active verbs. The “passive voice” occurs when you use forms of the verb to be. and it usually makes your sentences wordier and unclear. Using active, present-tense verbs makes your writing more alive and interesting.
- Consider the difference between the following sentences: “The window was broken by the zombie” and “The zombie broke the window.” In the first, you have no idea whether the window by the zombie just happened to be broken. The second is very clear: the zombie broke the window, and you need to hit the road.