Many good people write bad bios for themselves. Anyone asking you for a bio, or reading it, wants you to sound awesome, but what they need and what your ego wants to say are often different things. With these five simple rules you can write a good bio for yourself in less time, with less effort and everyone wins.

1. Impressive people have short bios

Compare this:

Bob Smith won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, twice. He invented air. He’s currently the head of Amazingness at Wonderment University.

With this:

Bob Smith spent 2001-2004 developing yard waste in Atlantic City, NJ. Then the better part of the 90′s working on psoriasis in Libya. For kicks, he studied in 2002-2008 licensing regulations for circus clowns in West Palm Beach, FL. Garnered a second place industry award while merchandising mouse yogurt in Las Vegas, NV. Had some great experience consulting about near-UFO experiences among visitors to Ocean City, NJ. Spent two years licensing cannibalism for farmers, and recycling Pez dispensers.*

Everyone wants your bio to be shorter. The shorter your bio, the more people will read it. No one is impressed by a long series of unimpressive things. If you have a great one sentence bio, people will be curious enough to find out more. On the other hand, if you have a bad and long bio they are certain never to want to learn anything about you. When you are famous enough to appear on TV or write an article for The New York Times, your by-line will be a few words long: Author. Senator. Musician. Keep this in mind. The goal is to make your bio shorter, not longer.

2. Write for the real audience

If you are asked for a bio because you are speaking somewhere, perhaps Ignite Seattle, shape your bio to best fit what you are speaking about. Your bio will be read by people at that event to help them understand why you’re credible on your topic.

For example, if you are speaking on fly fishing, don’t do this:

Sally Shmeckes is a software developer and designer who has written code in every language known to mankind.  She works mostly as a hired gun for startups in trouble, who need a superhero to help turn trainwreck projects around. She studied 3-D Film Theory and Anti-Nuclear Architecture at the University of Ridiculousness, and has 3 children if you count her husband.

Do something like this instead:

Sally Shmeckes is a veteran software developer and designer. Her Dad taught her to fly fish before she could walk and she has fished every day since he died. She’s on twitter at @sallyschemkes56.

3. Invert your pyramid

Put the important facts first. The fancy term for this is the inverted pyramid. Assume with each word in your bio that fewer and fewer people will keep reading. It’s a great assumption because it’s true.

This is good:

Bono is the lead singer for the rock band U2. He is an advocate for many important political and social causes. His real name is Paul Hewson. He owns many interesting pairs of glasses.

Not this:

Bono likes the color red, especially on Tuesdays. He loves to drink whiskey (on all days). He learned to drink whisky from his childhood friend Zippo, when they went to school together at Mount Temple Comprehensive School. His real name is Paul Hewson, He is best known as the lead singer for the band U2.

Have two versions of your bio, one two sentences long and a longer full paragraph version. When asked for a bio, provide both. For most marketing materials a short and long version are needed.

4. Be clever only if you’re certain it’s actually clever

From the Department of Made up Facts:

  • Percent of people who think they are clever: 64%
  • Percent of people who are actually clever: 7%

If you think you are clever: write your clever bio and get feedback on it from someone else you know who you’re certain is clever. If they approve, you’re in, but don’t try to be clever all on your own. One good joke in a bio is more than enough.

5. Watch the slashes, Jack

A sad trend born of Twitter are bios where people self describe themselves by a dozen different traits. This makes you look like someone who sucks at everything. It’s fine to be a Jack of All Trades, but to insist on telling everyone you’re a Jack of All Trades mostly makes you Jack of Many Annoyances. Our species has small brains: we need you to tell us the one or two of your trades that will be most relevant to us, or to what you will be talking about.

Instead of this, which seems written like SEO metadata:

Nina Nana is a designer / juggler / smuggler / hellraiser / accountant / anti-ninja / metallurgist / snake charmer

Try this:

Nina Nana is a designer who has mastered juggling, smuggling and many glorious pursuits of diverse ingenuity.

That’s all. Happy bio writing!

[*Note: The second example from #1 is a revised creation of the auto bio generator.]

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28 Responses to “How to write a good bio”

  1. cee bee |

    This cknfirms why i hat moat bios. soup er helpful. Thank you!

    For dome ridiculous reason my phone won’t let me correct my text. Sorry.

    Reply
      • cee bee |

        YAY!

        Reply
    • Adrian |

      Lol funny comment indeed, I hate a long bio as well. You have no time to read all of it. Bio should be short and meaningful as said in this post.

      Reply
    • hello |

      what do u mean??????

      Reply
  2. Mark Sutherland |

    Scott, thanks for the post: useful and very timely (the e-mail following your asked for for my bio).

    Reply
  3. EricLaw |

    Excellent article, as always. one typo: “PerCept of people who”

    Reply
  4. Theo |

    Great and useful post, thank you!

    Reply
  5. Mike Raia |

    Scott, thanks for mentioning our Bio Generator. Never thought it would actually serve a useful purpose!

    Mike Raia
    generatorland.com

    Reply
  6. Julien |

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you for this very interesting post. With all those social media and other website profiles, I find that most people are struggling with writing bios. Describing ourselves is a difficult exercise, probably because we believe that everything that we do/did/will do is relevant to get to know us.
    I will definitely remember this one advice when editing my bios: “if you have a great short bio, people will be curious enough to find out more”.

    @Cee Bee: so funny! Loved your comment!

    Reply
  7. Chris Marr |

    Thanks for this info Scott. I’m attempting to craft a new Bio…this will help greatly.

    Reply
  8. Arvind Nath |

    Very informative. Very funny, I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. I am going to sue. Thanks Scott.

    Reply
  9. Barbra |

    Nice to read an article on how to write a bio that not only has sound advice, but a few laughs too. I especially like your point about “Put the important facts first.” I would add “don’t forget to state specifically what your job title is.” I can’t tell you how many bios I have read that fail to do that.

    Reply
  10. Suhail Mohammed |

    Nice website!

    Reply
  11. Parameswaran Pengad |

    Very useful points for those who are trying autobiography! Elaboration may sometimes create a bad impression on readers too much of a.good.thing,even it is AMRUTH, is also bad!!
    Thank you, beloved author ,for your esteemed words!!!

    Reply
  12. New Music |

    I don’t know about this. Short and sweet is all well and good but there is some (actually a heap) of conflicting info out there about what makes a good bio. I’ve decided to compile a list of 10 or so really good ones and ask others what they thing and go from there. They are all more comprehensive than 2 lines I should add.

    Reply
  13. Jen |

    Sorry I wrote down New Music as my name in the last comment its Jen.

    Reply
  14. Natalie |

    A very funny and useful post. I actually read the whole thing word for word. How often does that happen on the net?… um never!

    Reply
  15. Frank |

    I’m in the process of creating my about page so i found this very timely.

    I was told to make the About page on your blog about the visitor and not so much about you. Of course you introduce yourself and validate your story/experience but make sure to give the reader a reason to stick around. You want your story to be relatable and not one sided. I’m sure I’ll need to revise it occasionally but I feel like I should be able to put something together that works well.

    Reply
  16. Liz Estes |

    Scott: Wondering if perhaps there is there an inverse law–the more well-known you are the shorter (and funnier) your bio can be? Barack Obama, POTUS. Santa Clause. Bruce.

    Reply
  17. David |

    Nice info.

    I am actually guilty of that jack of all trade syndrome. Reason: I do not know. That’s exactly what I wrote on my twitter bio page, but immediately I read this, I change it immediately!

    Reply
  18. Guillermo Avendaño-Franco |

    Thank you very much,

    My search on google put me right on front of your
    post, really good and useful post.

    Thanks

    Reply
  1. [...] How to write a good bio [here] [...]

  2. […] Write a solid bio: many people ignore the bio or simply put whatever into it. This is a mistake, because it is often the first thing that potential new followers look at when they see your profile. […]

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