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Michael Long is a speechwriter, author, educator, and award-winning screenwriter and playwright.

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How to Introduce Yourself

If You're Ever on a Gameshow


The shirttail bio in a program, op-ed, or intro
ought to sound professional. Here's how to do it.

Consider the brief or "shirttail" biography: it should convey personality, professionalism, and fact in two to four lines of precise prose. But allow me to do some mind reading:  Rarely do you feel that the executive biographies you write sound as tight as the ones you admire.
 
Try this.
 
Like much business writing, short bios can be executed against a ridiculously easy template. All it takes is a moment of research and the ability to follow directions.
 
The key to pro-sounding bio? State the facts and stop.
 

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These examples make the template obvious:
 
Tony Stark is the president and CEO of Stark Industries. In this capacity he plans long- and short-term strategy for the company, directs research, and makes corporate decisions on behalf of over 10,000 employees worldwide.
 
* * *
 
Borat Sagdiyev is chief correspondent for the Kazakhstan Television Network. He reports from around the world on political and policy matters as they affect the Kazakh people, with special emphasis on the “cultural learnings” of America.
 
* * *
 
Vernon Wormer is dean of Faber College. As the administrative and academic leader of the institution, Dean Wormer guides the intellectual and cultural direction of Faber, and works with faculty and staff to maintain a welcoming and diverse environment for all.

 
How about that? By writing in this way, even silly characters obtain seriousness. Here is the key:  As long as you get the facts right, making the bio sound professional is a matter of sticking to simple, direct language.
 

Making a bio sound professional means sticking to fact and simple language.


 
The template begins with this:  NAME is TITLE. That’s the first line. Don’t do any more than that, and don’t do any less. Examples:  Jimmy Fallon is the host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC. Charles Martin is chief accountant for The Wellspring Group. Emily Cadillo is the chief information officer for Pallomar, Inc. Don’t open with a quote or a recounting of achievement or a gripping narrative of your subject’s vision for life, liberty, and the pursuit of whatever she is pursuing. Just go with NAME is TITLE. That’s it.
 
The second sentence (and third, if necessary) – the rest of the little template – is a description of the current responsibilities of the subject, as the original examples above illustrate. But note what that follow-up sentence does not include:  Education. Honors. Certifications. Boasts. Quotes. Admiring comments from colleagues and admirers. A sweet thought from mom. In a longer bio, those things are not only valuable, they’re necessary, but we’re not writing a full bio. This is a short paragraph for others to get the picture fast.
 
Two or three sentences:  NAME is TITLE, followed by responsibilities. Are there other ways to do it? Sure. But this one is foolproof. Stick to the template and you’ll be fine.
 

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