Writing about yourself is tough. Here’s how to do it.

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Does writing about yourself make you nervous? Here’s how to do it well.

We’re all the same. Even pro writers like me can write perfectly for clients, but when it comes to writing about me? I shrivel. I bet you shrivel too.

So here are some tips that might help make the process a lot easier for you.

Let’s start with some general hints and tips on how to approach any project that involves writing about yourself…

What you want to achieve

Before you do anything else, ask yourself not what you want to say, but what you want to achieve with the text. Be honest with yourself and don’t be overly ambitious. Once you’ve clearly identified your objective keep it in mind throughout the writing exercise. You’ll find that keeps you on track far more effectively – what you want to achieve should define what you say.

For example: which of the following objectives do you think would help you to write a good personal statement for your CV/Résumé:

  1. I am a very good software engineer and I need a job
  2. You have just found the ideal software engineer to fill your vacancy

Or on the “about” page for your website:

  1. I am a nice person with some interesting hobbies, as well as being a very good illustrator
  2. I am the sort of person you will like doing business with

Forget modesty when you write about yourself

As an experienced salesperson would say, “if you don’t think you’re good, why the hell should I?” Equally of course you don’t want to exaggerate your strengths – that can lead to problems when you’re eventually called upon to deliver! But be realistic about what you can do and don’t be afraid to describe it in a positive light.

A useful way to achieve this is to step outside of yourself and regard yourself as a product or better still, as a brand. For the purposes of this exercise you are not Mary Doe the person. You are writing about Mary Doe the brand. It’s not as difficult as it sounds; write in the third person to start with, if you find that more comfortable. Imagine you’re a colleague writing about you.

Who wants to know, and what’s in it for them?

Where possible, identify the audience who will be reading your text and aim your writing squarely at them. It’s possible that the “core” of your text can remain the same for a number of different purposes, with individual “tops and tails” aimed at specific audiences. The more relevant your text is to the reader – telling him/her how you and your service meet their needs – the more successful the text will be.

Bear in mind that whoever reads this text probably won’t care much about you; they’ll only care about what you can do for them. Structure everything with that in mind. If you need to include factual/statistical information (educational details, qualifications, etc.) then make sure you put it in a box so it’s visually separated from the main text.

First person or third person when you write about yourself?

Just now I suggested writing in the third person to make it easier for you to regard yourself in an objective light. However there are times when you may need to present your text in the first person – e.g. in a letter or email. Try where possible to use the third person – if for no other reason than it gives you more leeway to write enthusiastically about yourself.

Have a look at these two mini-case histories – which do you think sounds more professional and less conceited?

Third person

With 10 years’ experience in retail HR management, John was able to identify quickly the cause of the staff unrest, before it began to disrupt the workflow. His considerable negotiating skills got the entire team together and communicating, and without finger-pointing or allocation of blame he re-distributed the workload. Within just 24 hours what could have become a costly strike was resolved thanks to John’s efficient handling of the problems, and staff morale increased significantly.

First person

With my 10 years’ experience in retail HR management, I was able to identify quickly the cause of the staff unrest, before it began to disrupt the workflow. My considerable negotiating skills got the entire team together and communicating, and without finger-pointing or allocation of blame on my part I re-distributed the workload. Within just 24 hours what could have become a costly strike was resolved thanks to my efficient handling of the problems, and staff morale increased significantly.

Testimonials are valuable

Where appropriate, use short clips of testimonials from existing clients or customers. Avoid the pleasantly banal bits and use phrases and sentences that have some meaning and bite.

A sentence or two normally is plenty – any more and the reader will probably just skim over it.

Good writing style is essential

Follow the rules of modern business writing; keep it simple. Use “active voice” rather than “passive voice” where possible. Keep your sentences down to a sensible length and use no more than three or four sentences per paragraph. Use cross headings and “pullouts” to break your text up visually and allow the reader to pick up on the main points.

Be sure that your grammar, spelling and punctuation are right. Although standards have been slipping in the last few years, books like “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss – and even my own “Banana Skins Words and how not to slip on them,” have focused everyone’s attention on the technical aspects of writing again. Goofs  of this nature make your text, and you, look amateurish.

Do a reality check on your text about yourself, after you’ve completed it

Show it to friends and colleagues and ask not if they “like” it, but if they feel it represents you fairly – and if not, why not. Then take other people’s opinions on board, but don’t lose sleep over them. At the end of the day you probably know yourself, and your market, better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to make final judgments.

How easy – or difficult – do you find it to write about yourself? Would love know know your views and experiences.

photo credit: Maxwell GS via photopin cc

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. I’m just not sure about third or first person.
    I’ve heard that first person is more friendly to readers, nevertheless we are blog writers/posters, not some press release writers.

    What you think Suzan?

    Thanks, Tomas

    • I agree that first person is friendlier, which can be a problem! Using the third person allows you to display your skills effectively: if you do this in the first person it sounds boastful and arrogant. It can work in contexts like LinkedIn profiles, however, where you can’t really come across as too conceited anyway…LOL…

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