Full Circle Communications

April 2012
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past issues
Scan past issues on such topics as design tips for writers and speechwriting.

ease in writing?
"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get you around the floor more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve your writing.

Writing Website Bios

Bio Style #1:

Dr. Sanchez oversees customer engagement from the enterprise and infrastructure perspectives.

Bio Style #2:

Jeannie holds our customers' hands when she's not knitting or scuba diving.

Bio Style #3:

Some combination of #1 and #2 that makes sense for your organization.

If you are drafting a bio:
  • Keep it short. It is different than the bio you might include in proposals that require lengthy lists of accomplishments. It is not a resume.
  • Minimize the hype. Readers want a sense of your team's capabilities and what it would be like to work with you. Don't be falsely modest, but don't lay on the "best in class," "uniquely qualified," and other superlatives too thickly.
  • Don't lie or embellish. That should be obvious, but a reminder just in case.

If you are deciding how to compile a collection of bios for your organization:
  • Match the tone to your brand. Informal style (first names, conversational) fit many organizations; others feel more comfortable with a more distant style (Ms. Johnson).
  • Determine whom to include. Some organizations post bios of the whole staff, from receptionist to CEO. Others limit the bios to the senior leadership team or some other smaller set. No right or wrong answer, but make it a conscious decision, not just by default.
  • Determine what to include. Do you want the bios to include family and personal interests? Volunteer positions? Academic degrees? Or just stick to information related to the job. Try to be consistent across bios.
  • Photos or not? When I read a website bio before meeting someone in person, I like seeing his or her photo beforehand. But you may disagree. If you include photos, they should be professional--not necessarily a formal head shot but not the kind that teens post on Facebook.
  • Proof the bios carefully. For example, if you include academic background, be consistent with how you present the information across multiple bios. (Did they major in Psychology or psychology?)
If you are asking your colleagues for their bios:
  • Give them clear guidelines. Outside-of-work information or not, previous jobs before coming to your organization or not? Decide beforehand so you don't waste people's time (and good will).
  • Run it past them. It's their lives on public display. Ask for a sign-off is considerate.
Biography in a Broader Context

No one will confuse a website bio with a biography by David McCullough. But if you are inspired to read some good biographies or autobiographies/memoirs, here are a few I have enjoyed in recent months:

Emperor of All Maladies (A "Biography of Cancer") by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Harriett Jacobs: A Life (escaped slave who wrote her own autobiography in the 1850s) by Jane Yellin

This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Sirleaf Johnson (president of Liberia, first female elected African leader)

Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling

Two I have not yet read, but are on my list based on the authors' recent PEN/Faulkner readings at the Folger Shakespeare Theater:

Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff

The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo

And last but not least, if you truly inspired:

How to Do Biography: A Primer by Nigel Hamilton

Full Circle Communications, LLC / Alexandria, VA / 703.212.0349