Tuesday, June 3, 2008

6 Steps to Writing a Professional Bio

  1. Keep it short

    When writing a bio, remember the difference between bio and biography.

    Bio = short. Biography = long.

    A good bio is short. Because if it's too long, people won't read it. What you see in the Pharmacist bio template above is the short bio template followed by the beginning of the long bio template. We provide the short version and the longer version for all our bio templates.

    Most of the time it's best to limit your bio to three or four sentences, like in the short bio template shown above. This is particularly true for a professional bio that you would use when being introduced as a speaker, or at the end of an article you have written.

    When writing a bio for your website, you can make it a little longer if you wish (see point 6 below).

  2. Write in the third person

    What this means is that you write your professional bio as though someone else is talking about you. So instead of writing "I am" and "I graduated", you would write "Jane Smith is" and "She graduated".

    Use your full name (first and last) the first time. After that, it's up to you whether you want to refer to yourself by your full name, just your first name, or just your last name. Here are some tips to keep in mind about the use of your name:
    • first names are friendly and informal, while last names are more conservative and formal
    • use your first name if you are trying to develop a relationship with your reader (e.g. you want them to hire you)
    • use your last name (e.g. "Smith graduated from" instead of "Tom graduated from") if you want your reader to be impressed by you consider the norms of the industry you work in: a personal coach may choose to use just the first name, whereas a medical doctor may choose to use a title "Dr. Smith"
    • whichever form you decide to use, keep it consistent throughout your bio

  3. Briefly highlight your main achievements

  4. The key words here are "briefly" and "achievements". The purpose of a professional bio is to demonstrate your professional credibility. Unlike a resume (which should include your complete career history), a professional bio only needs to cover the "high points" of your career.

    Here's another way to think about it: your professional bio is a little advertisement for you or your business. And as you know, the best advertisements are memorable because they highlight the best features with very few words.

    Ideally, your professional bio will address what I call the “four reader questions”. These are the four questions that readers want answered in your professional bio:

    1. who you are...
    2. your expertise and how it addresses...
    3. their problem or goal, and how they can...
    4. contact you

  5. Personal information is optional

  6. In our bio templates, we include a paragraph where you can mention personal information such as where you're from, who you live with, and what you like doing in your spare time. This is completely optional.

    Some people say that personal information is not relevant in a professional bio, because it has nothing to do with the job. That may be true, but I find that most readers like getting a sense of who you are outside of your professional role. And that brings us to point #5:

  7. Don't be bland - let your personality show

    Since your professional bio is an advertisement for you, make it reflect the real you. If you're a down-to-earth person, use unpretentious language. If you have a particular passion, let the reader know. If you love to joke around, include some humor in your bio (but be careful, humor can be tricky).

  8. If you decide to write a longer bio

  9. As mentioned in point #1, when writing a professional bio for your website you can make it a little longer if you wish. The bio templates that we sell give you an option of using either the short bio template, or the long bio template that elaborates on the information in the short bio.

    If you choose to write a longer bio, make sure you break it into short paragraphs (no more than three sentences in each paragraph). Studies show that when people are faced with a large block of text (especially on a computer screen), they just scan over it quickly.

    By making your paragraphs nice and short, you'll increase the likelihood that people will actually read your bio. And that's what you want, right?

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