A biographical sketch paints an abbreviated picture of someone's life. It can be written about someone else's life or your own life. If you're writing about someone else, then you must explain who the person is and highlight their major achievements.
If the biographical sketch is about you, the same criteria apply, in addition to the goal of presenting yourself in a positive light. Below, you'll find tips on writing a biographical sketch - also known as a biosketch - in order to keep people engaged and make others want to know more about the subject.
Biographical sketches usually provide an account of a person's life and include core information. If you're writing a biosketch about someone else, you'll want to focus on the following basic information: full name, date/place of birth, family background, occupation, and major accomplishments.
We can also write biographical sketches about ourselves - otherwise known as autobiographical sketches - when we need to promote ourselves, say, for a book or presentation. Often, we need to create professional portfolios that include a resume, samples of professional work, and a biographical sketch. In these instances, the primary focus is major accomplishments, which we will see in some of the examples below.
It's best to aim for approximately 500 words in these sketches. That's equivalent to about one standard, single-spaced page. Remember, as a "sketch," this is going to be a condensed version of a fuller biography. You'll want to tap into those core categories, including background and history, along with pertinent accomplishments. You will, however, have to select only the most noteworthy sentiments, as you'll be confined to approximately one single-spaced page.
Try to highlight notable achievements that will impress the audience and make the subject a more memorable one. Mention how these accomplishments affected the subject's life. Likewise, you can also incorporate personal influences into the sketch. For example:
Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing.
This is a snippet from master marketer Ann Handley's biographical sketch. In it, she masterfully highlights her achievements and influence on her industry.
Once you've gathered all the necessary information to compose a biographical sketch, it's time to format your facts. Will you retell the person's life in chronological order? Or, will you lead with their major achievements and then circle back to tell their full story?
Five hundred words only gives you three to five paragraphs to work with. In an autobiographical sketch, you can even consider a bulleted list. For something more classic, take a look at this biographical sketch about Leonard Bernstein, American conductor, composer, and educator.
Before publishing or presenting a biographical sketch on an individual, double check all your sources. It's important that the information being presented is confirmed and accurate. If you're writing a biographical sketch, the subject is the best person to provide accurate information. Is an interview possible? If not, as you obtain information about your subject from other sources, be sure to verify its veracity. Here's more on how to find credible sources.
If you're writing your own biographical sketch, it can be extended into a capsule biography or full-blown autobiography. A capsule biography covers six pertinent elements: name, birthdate, birthplace, parents' names, major achievements, and death.
While the topics are similar, capsule biographies are able to include a little more detail than biosketches. As in Ann Hadley's biosketch, she kept the focus on her major achievements with just a tiny little personal detail at the end.
A biographical sketch is an important tool in a professional's toolkit. If you're a writer, it can help you formulate a byline. If you're searching for jobs, it can help you formulate your professional summary. All in all, a biosketch is a springboard to your story.
It can even extend into your very own autobiography, or memoir. There, you'll be free to dive into all sorts of anecdotes and tales. Autobiographies are not limited to overarching achievements in roughly 500 words. Whether you're writing a biography or autobiography, check out these tips on how to engage the reader. There, you'll learn about the art of the hook, a practice helpful to every genre of writing.