Boiling Down Your Online Bio

Posted by The Editors on July 29, 2011

A discussion about content for this week got me thinking about word counts—always paramount for a journalist, of course—and about a specific, semester-long challenge I faced in school several years back. In an arts-criticism class, my classmates and I had to write reviews every week. Each one had to offer a thoughtful evaluation of a concert, a movie, a book, an art exhibit—anything in the realm of the arts, really—within a set word count that varied from week to week.

One week, we’d be limited to 500 words, then 400, then 300. It was like running with ankle weights; the challenge of fitting our thoughts to the allotted space grew increasingly difficult. The experience made our writing concentrated: packed with facts and details, and free of filler.

This approach could serve you well in crafting a bio for your personal website, a personal statement for a job or grad school application, or the summary for your LinkedIn page. Whoever your audience is, you don’t want to bore them or make them search through a padded, bulky block of text. You want to get your point across as succinctly as possible—while still writing in full sentences and maintaining proper grammar and syntax.

Set an initial limit (say, 500 words) and write what you’d want an employer to know about who you are: your background, your skills, and your career goals and interests. Then, start condensing: cut 100 words while keeping the stuff that describes you best. Work your way down, in 50-word chunks, to 100 words. This exercise will help you focus on the qualities and experience that really capture who you are.

Bonus challenge: Forget complete sentences, and try boiling your statement down to 25 to 30 words—around the 160-character limit of a Twitter bio.

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