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The Challenge of a Short Bio

PUBLISHED: February 15, 2008

Nearly every submission that we receive is accompanied by a cover letter that includes a brief biography, many of which are written in the third person. Authors include this because they believe it helps their odds of getting the work published, and the use of third person is presumably to allow us to use the bio in the magazine, should the work be accepted for publication, without us needing to alter a single pronoun. Writers must put a lot of thought into that bio, wondering what intriguing bit is most likely to persuade us to publish them.

(For the record, we don’t (consciously) use the bio as any sort of a metric for publication. It’s the kind of thing that we publish or it’s not. The writing is good or it’s not. We have room in the magazine or we don’t.)

Giles Turnbull explores the challenges of writing a short bio in The Morning News, chronicling the hours he spent writing a 24 word bio. He doesn’t want to be too clever, too humble, too clinical or too stupid. It’s clearly a significant effort for him. I’ve spent more time than I’d care for writing brief bios for speaking engagements and publications, but not this much; perhaps I’m just not as neurotic as Turnbull.

(Via Kottke)


Wistar's picture
Thankfully my bios are all short - little more than my name and location - because I haven’t published anything yet. If I were interviewed on the radio, I’d just be “Wistar in Virginia.”

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