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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

How to write a bio

I mentioned the other day that I joined a career coaching group. We are still in our infancy but I sense so much energy and determination. Kudos to Sandy and Nancy who came up with this brilliant idea. I’m anticipating some great things for the future.

Like most groups, we were invited to provide a bio as a means of introduction. That gave me the idea for today’s post.

I’ve written bios for lots of occasions. I also read a lot of them for the various newsletters I’ve edited over the years. So what’s in your bio?

• If it’s a bio for an article, please keep them short. Anything under 50 words is acceptable and most magazines and newsletters put a limit of 100 words, tops.

• Keep the personal stuff to a minimum. I love my dogs but I rarely mention them unless it’s for an article about pets or animal husbandry.

• Say something clever. I usually give some off the wall comment that makes people take notice. It does two things for me. #1, it exposes my quirky personality, and #2, it piques people’s curiosity. Again keep it short. It’s easy to go overboard.

• Keep to the venue. My bio for advertising articles stresses my expertise in the field, such as: "Maria Zannini has been a graphic designer for 25 years." --yadda, yadda credentials.

My humor story continued its wit into the bio. "Maria Zannini is a writer and graphic artist living anonymously in Texas. After this international fiasco, U.S. officials have asked her not to leave the country anytime soon. They have enough to worry about."

• Generally, bios are written in third person. If I write a bio for a group where we are all intimates, I’ll write it in first person.

• Let your personality shine through. Go through any magazine and pick out the bios that appeal to you. Chances are they are short, funny and friendly. Dry bios suck lemons. No one cares how many degrees you have unless it has direct relevance to the preceding article or query. Note: If you are writing about a serious topic, (like death or dismemberment) leave the funnies out.

• Only list your website or blog if it directly applies to your article or story. For example, my writing blog wouldn’t appear in any article about animal husbandry but it would appear in articles about writing or the business of writing. Always keep your audience in mind.

Bios are tiny slices of your life. It provides contact information, credentials or flavor to give just the right finish to a stellar article or story. Use them to your advantage.


Rob said...

Interesting comments

One of the problems I have with the excellent blogger system is that there is only one bio for all sites.

I'd prefer to have a more serious bio on the blog discussing pros and cons of gambling whereas my online stories need a more light hearted touch.

Maria Zannini said...

Welcome, Rob.
I didn't realize blogs forced you to keep the same bio. (I'm still on my honeymoon with Blogger, and still feeling my way around.)

I wonder if it would make a difference if you created a blog with new contact and password information, in a sense tricking it to believe you were a different blogger.

But you are right on, bios need to be individualized to each venue.