Lucky me, lately I’ve had to write my bio a couple of times: you know, between 50-150 words that describe who I am and what I do, to accompany an article I’ve written, a textbook I’ve edited, a public lecture I’m giving. You know the drill: you write about yourself in the third person, trying to balance out a recitation of your credentials strong enough to add gravitas to whatever it is the bio is accompanying, against an impulse not to brag or be over-wordy or do it wrong.
I hate writing these. And every time I have to write one for a new context I write a fresh bio, because I want to give the right info to the right audience. And I figure out what’s the ‘right info’ by cruising for similar bios written by others.
Here’s some of what I’ve noticed, generally:
- Often, graduate students write the most about themselves in their bios, and this can be a little off-putting. (“Janey Ambitious (BA Podunk) is a pre-PhD student in the program of Arts and Culture at the University of Bigname, where she teaches several yearly sections of freshman comp and studies the grand literary theory of everything. Her research combines new criticism, poststructuralism, new media studies, and continental philosophy to propose that everyone is wrong. She was a valedictorian of her high school and published a poem on the Arts Student Association website, which earned three comments.”) Otherwise, they say very little, which I kind of like for its clear-headed brevity. (“Janey Ambitious is a Masters student at University of Bigname.”)
- Early professors sometimes couch their whole records like a selection — this was my particular trick. (“Aimée Morrison (PhD, Alberta) is an Assistant Professor in English at the University of Waterloo. She has recently published on videogaming in 1980s popular cinema, blogging, and rhetorics of internet democracy.”) The trick here is that ‘recently published’ was in fact everything I had ever published. It just sounded less shitty that way …
- Some really senior people write damn near nothing and are intimidating as a result (“Susan Accomplished is CRC of Magnificence in Scholarship at Hyper Competitive University, as well as President.”) Of course, when they list out even a representative sample of what they’ve done, it’s huge, and still totally intimidating. (“Susan Accomplished (PhD Oxford, FRSC) is CRC of Magnificence in Scholarship at HCU, as well as President. She has published three mongraphs on That Very Cool Thing No One Else Does But Everyone Cites since 2004, earned a Nobel Prize for Literature as well as a Pulitzer Prize for journalism for … [Oh God, I can’t go on. I’m getting depressed]”)