Writing Your Bio
by Terje Johansen

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Are you a nobody in the world of writing, or a respected personality whose opinions are listened to? The answer is up to you, in a degree that might surprise you. The information you feed people about yourself is vital to their understanding of you, and as a writer, respect is vital. Respect radically increases the odds of your work being read again by the reader next time he or she stumbles over your name while skimming lists of articles or stories.

As a writer you usually get to (read: have to) write your own bios and blurbs. There are many ways to write these bios, but some factors remain important:

Write in Third Person. People automatically give more trust to what is said of one person by another, than to what people say about themselves -- even when they know that the bio was written by the author. Elementary psychology, and used by everybody who needs respect. In addition, the third person creates a little distance that allows the reader to feel less intruded upon.

List Facts, Not Wishes. If you are a lumberjack and/or a housewife, you are free to say so or refrain from doing so. You may also say that you only write as a hobby, but don't bother to explain that you hope to be a full time journalist in the future -- the reader is unlikely to be interested in your dreams at this point. Neither is it recommended that you overdo the posturing -- you may be an excellent writer, but that is for the reader to find out. Every superlative used in your bio will reduce the reader's trust in the objectivity of that bio, and hence of your material. It shouldn't be necessary to tell of the dangers in actually lying in a bio -- being caught in a lie is a major breach of trust and can do irreparable damage to your reputation.

Cite Relevant Experiences. If you have an education in some field of writing, then mention it. Any earlier experiences in the writing game is worth mentioning, be it being published in New York Times or an amateur e-zine. If you haven't been paid for any work yet, it IS acceptable to list the articles you gave away to some amateur e-zine or put up on your own homepage... just don't go into too many details. Once you have two or three references, you can stop; keep it down to a few good ones.

Belong Somewhere. If you are a member of any writers' community, mention it. Many writers have found it useful to belong to a group for training, local or social purposes, but there is also the added benefit of having a reference of relevance to your craft. Even if your only connection with a writer's guild is that you pay the membership dues, it is worth mentioning and increases trust among the readers -- they know that others are able to give more information about you or get hold of you if need should arise.

Write Tight. This is a good rule in all your writing, and particularly in your bio. The reader is checking out your bio only for a moment, and mostly only in order to estimate the value of your work. Write more than a few lines, and you have lost him.

Add a Hook. You should include one or two bits of information that help give your bio that extra little colour that will make readers remember your name next time you meet. Perhaps you can mention an unusual hobby, or something else that will twitch the reader's smiling muscles?

Keep your bio down to one small paragraph, write honestly and to the point, and you will have a pretty good chance of being remembered.

Find Out More...

Who Are You? How to Write a Good Bio - Devyani Borade

Copyright © 2001 Terje Johansen
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Terje Johansen is Norwegian, married, and a computer engineer by education, and writes because he loves to. In addition to writing about electronic publishing, he does a little bit of web design, mulls over antiquated and dilapidated camping stoves and walks the occasional forest path. He reads a lot, fiddles with hammers and screwdrivers once in a while, and generally likes to have his hands occupied.


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