Help Writing A Biographical Essay

How to Write an Interesting Biography for College

A biography carries with it the essentials of any good story. There can be drama, conflict, love, hate, and adventure. All of the things necessary to tell a compelling story can be found in people’s lives and the events that happen around them. However, your paper won’t earn you the best grade if you simply state the facts. If you’re struggling to write an interesting and informative biography, here are five suggestions to help write a solid paper.

1. Choose an interesting subject.

If you’re writing a biography for college, you probably have the option of choosing your subject. Is your subject a person that the reader may know, such as an actor, politician, or other public figure, or someone closer to home, like a relative or friend? If the reader doesn’t know the person, ask yourself if there is something compelling about the subject’s life that is of particular interest that you can expand upon. If not, choose another person as the subject for your paper.

2. Interview or research your subject.

If you pick a person that is alive and approachable, see if you can gain access to interview them. However, if your subject is dead or is not available to for interview, you will have to get the necessary information by performing research. Gather the basic facts, such as date and place of birth, education, family, achievements, and place and date of death, if applicable. Also, find out about any major events that took place in the time of your subject and use them as backdrops to more fully draw out the character of your subject. Look for any possible impact that your subject had on society and any historical significance. Make sure that when you reference other materials in a biography for college, you use the proper citation style.

3. Begin your biography in an interesting way.

Facts by themselves are often dry and boring. Just because you’re writing a biography for college doesn’t mean you should just state the facts. Instead, weave them into a narrative story or put them in other interesting ways. Most people connect with a biography first and foremost on an emotional level. Remember, your opening is what captures the reader’s attention and sets the tone for your paper. You may choose to include a little known fact or a fascinating event at the beginning. If you do, make sure it is relevant and that it leads into the body of your biography.

4. Select the proper tone.

Before you begin to write, think about your subject’s life. Is it a tale of tragedy or triumph? Was your subject’s life inspirational or gritty and dark? You want to create an image in your reader’s mind that matches the prevailing mood of their life. Use a tone that matches this appropriately.

5. Break down the components of your subject’s life.

Break down your subject’s life story into three or four parts or time periods. Once you’ve done this, you can find what could include other interesting sub plots in the story. Look for a certain arc in the story. You could even select just a part of the subject’s life if that is a defining moment in their evolution. For instance, if your subject was a professional athlete or was involved in a dangerous mission during a war, you may want to write just about that time in their life.

When you refer to works by other authors in your biography, it’s important that you cite them accurately so your reader can validate the references. The citation style will vary based upon the writing format given to you by your college professor, whether APA, MLA, or another. Your cited references will add credibility and relevance to the story. If you are unsure of the proper format for your citation style, you can use formatting software for accuracy.

David Plaut

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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Every small business owner should have a short, succinct bio that can be used for various purposes. The bio should be authoritative and positive, and should reflect your level of professional achievement and status. Write the bio in third-person rather than first-person, so the bio reads as informative, rather than self-serving.

Short Bio

Even if you have a well-structured resume, there are many times when a short bio will come in handy. For example:

  • As a brief executive profile for a  website
  • As a career clip on your professional social networking sites
  • When you’re speaking at an event, and the emcee requests a short bio to reference in your introduction
  • When you’re being included in an event program or membership directory
  • When you author a paper or article and it includes a brief bio and photo

A short bio can range from one paragraph to a page. Many professionals have different lengths for different purposes.

What to Include

Unlike a detailed resume or a CV, a short bio should encapsulate the professional information that you consider most vital. Consider the following structure:

  • Current position
  • Career highlights
  • Professional designations and education 
  • Optional Tags (wrap-ups of choice, such as personal information or career objectives)

Example:

James Roberts is the CEO of Big Co. During his 10-year tenure, Roberts oversaw operations and strategic planning that resulted in net profit increases in more than 20 percent. Before this role, Roberts was executive director of Small Co., where he directed the activity of three regional branches. Roberts holds a master's degree in management from Any University. In his spare time he enjoys fly fishing and gourmet cooking with his wife, Elise.

Writing multiple short bio versions

You may find it useful to write slightly different versions of your short bio to use for different circumstances. For example, the bio you use for an emcee to introduce you at a charity fundraiser might focus on your contributions to the organization, while the bio you use at the end of an op-ed on management strategies in your local paper would focus on your career expertise. Examples:

Charity: James Roberts is the Executive Director of Big Co. He has been an advisory board member for Charity Name for 15 years and an active member of the annual fundraising gala.

Business article: James Roberts is the CEO of Big Co. He oversees executive training for the organization's internal staff and board of directors. Roberts holds a degree in management from Any University USA.

In addition to the above-mentioned purposes, short bios can also be used for things like business loan or grant applications, as part of email signature blocks or even used as the basis for self introductions at networking events. Consider the short bio as part of your professional presentation materials, and update it, as needed, to ensure that it’s always at the ready.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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