How To Write A Good Bio
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
Bob Smith won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, twice. He invented air. He’s currently the head of Amazingness at Wonderment University.
Bob Smith spent 2001-2004 staring blankly at piles of yard waste in Atlantic City, NJ. During the better part of the 90’s he read several mediocre comic books. He studied in 2002-2008 licensing regulations for circus clowns in West Palm Beach, FL. and garnered a second place industry award while merchandising mouse yogurt in Las Vegas, NV. He consulted in near-UFO experiences with random tourists on the street in Ocean City, NJ. and spent two years unsuccessfully licensing cannibalism for farmers, while maintaing his Pez dispenser collection.*
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.
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
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.]
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.
This comment made my whole day. :)
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.
I just read this – hilarious.
this is a nice
what do u mean??????
That’ s really funny!
Hahaha! Can’t stop laughing.
good one Cee Bee
Thank you for your comment. Laughed out load.
Scott, thanks for the post: useful and very timely (the e-mail following your asked for for my bio).
Excellent article, as always. one typo: “PerCept of people who”
Thanks Eric. Fixed.
Scott dumb post didn’t help me at all, never post anything so useless ever again. You are a waist of time.
Clearly considering all the comments besides yours is saying contrarily. And if you thought his previous posts we useless, why even bother even coming on to this website?!
Shit… every day I find some ridiculous, ignorant common, it never ceases to amaze me. How are there so many people trying to act all tough and believe that *somehow* they’re entitled to put others down, that it’s all of a sudden justified because they can hide behind their computer. Not saying that this is the case here, or how often you leave unnecessary comments & just being a facetious asshole but the reason why I’m so adamant about it is because my cousin’s best friend killed herself because of things said online towards her. You might say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. You’re basically just being a fucking bully. Grow the hell up…
(Unless you’re actually his friend just bein a dick to fuck around with him… than that would be a totally different story.)
He’s not a friend of mine as far as I know :)
Excellent lesson Ally. Very good point as well. We never know what we might say, at what time in someone’s life. Once we make the decision to launch those missles (words) they can not be called back.
Scott I enjoyed reading your input. Humorous as well as to the point. Thank you sir.
Yes, Ally. What a dumb comment, when this blog post was obviously the shit. The comments were cool until one loser had to ef it up.
Your bio might be best crafted as follows:
“Insecure bully with spelling deficiencies (waist?!), seeking to become a better person, just afraid to admit it”. I hope you come to your senses one day – life is short.
Do you feel better now Mark? It’s obvious you hate yourself, get a therapist.
Excellent article! It’s witty, entertaining, and full of useful information. Thank you for sharing with us.
Great and useful post, thank you!
Scott, thanks for mentioning our Bio Generator. Never thought it would actually serve a useful purpose!
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!
Photographers often struggle to write bios. They’re either too arty and make no sense, or clumsy third person stuff. I wrote this a short while ago, thought you might find it interesting:
This post was good. Almost…
Thanks for this info Scott. I’m attempting to craft a new Bio…this will help greatly.
Very informative. Very funny, I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. I am going to sue. Thanks Scott.
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.
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!!!
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.
Sorry I wrote down New Music as my name in the last comment its Jen.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Thank you very much,
My search on google put me right on front of your
post, really good and useful post.
Great post. I’m going away and changing my bio based on your advice. The only thing I might say to disagree is that some very unimpressive people have the shortest bios.
This post is awesome. I’m going to re-write my bio now on all my public pages.
The hardest part will be making a long bio for myself as i’m still young.
Thank you for this.
Thank you! The info I was looking for, presented in a way that’s easy to apply.
heh heh, great post & quite entertaining!! *****
Interesting read. Definitely had me looking at the way a bio is written in a whole new way.
First, thank you very much indeed for the priceless comments. I would like to ask if a certain institute requires us to write a length-set autobios, say a 2-page one, how should we act then?
“How to write a good bio” listed in sixth position in Google. A couple of things:
1. To save time for all, it should be #1.
2. I’m glad I kept looking for better advice after reading 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.
Great article. I am currently editing my bio and I really find this helpful.
What to write when we are not even in the “think I’m clever” category? Basically how to write impressively when the credentials sink like Titanic.
” and has 3 children if you count her husband.”
This made my day ridiculously funny lol..!
Anyway, old post but still very helpful..
Nice one, thanks!
Thanks Scott! After 17 years in business, it’s hard to believe I hadn’t written a short bio, but will be doing a speaking engagement and needed one. Your article really helped me narrow down the content, and it’s some very precise verbiage that draws a person in with only 2-3 sentences. Thanks for helping me achieve that. Cheers! ~ Kathy
Thanks to you scott, I have a great bio now
Great article. Found it during an internet search on writing a good Bio. Have a radio interview coming up next week and wanted to make some changes to mine. So very helpful. I ended up reversing the order of my Bio contents and shortening by about 70%. Excellent
Writing about ourselves isn’t an easy task. I find it hard to write about myself. But, your tips helped me a lot to find the right direction. :)
I might/could/sometimes/maybe use slashes too much in my bio ;). I did not run that through a clever check though…Haha.
Thanks for the tips! When I read “Spent two years licensing cannibalism for farmers, and recycling Pez dispensers.” I died laughing for some reason.
Excellent content regarding how to make a bio stand out in a busy world. I will use your points next time I write one up. Thanks for the article and will look forward to more.
Some valuable pointers I will take from this post – many thanks.
I also related this guide with Twitter BIO. In few words, you need to show a lot more – That’s the writing science of using few words and expressing more.
Thanks for the nice information.
Yes it’s all about conversion. Showing the people how they can benefit from contacting you engaging with you and reading your content is critical for getting better CRT from your bio. Ecential part of it is the credibility info. Grat points here. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your info, I’ll make use of this in my future bio’s
Thank you all for sharing knowledge of how to write a bio that is good and simple. Very interesting for me to learn about your ideas well.
Scott has done a terrific job laying out the best way to cut through all the fluff and write a bio that dominates.
thanks to this fine article I am about to completely rewrite my bio and change it on all my social media. Well done and thanks to Scott.
Thanks! This was extremely helpful! Especially examples of what to do and what to avoid in bio writing!
This is the most helpful bio article i have found yet!
Thanks. I havd learnt something new and good for me. Am about to finish writting my bio.
Thank you for sharing this post on how one can write a good bio! Keep ’em coming.
Working on a conference talk form now and stuck on how to best write Bio, this really helped.
Thanks for this! Entertaining and dead on!
What a fun read! Appreciated your approach and accurate delivery. Thanks
This is a useful and excellent share. Will definitely share it with people I know.
An amazing post with great tips as always. Anyone will find your post useful. Keep up the good work.