Biographical Sketches --- What are They and
how do you write them?
By D. A. Sharpe
Usually, a biographical sketch is autobiographical …. composed by the
person about whom the sketch is describing. Occasionally, other writers do the
composition. What is composed should be whatever you
would approve being published in a public place, such as in your local
newspaper, a magazine or a bulletin describing a program event. Do not include items you
would not want the general public to read, as
biographical sketches, generally, are intended for public consumption.
There are several venues which serve as frameworks for biographical
sketches. The various types of
biographical sketches are defined by the reading audience that is expected and
the reason that a biographical sketch was created. Here are several different
kinds of biographical sketches in my perception.
If you are preparing your biographical sketch at someone else's request, discover something about the length they expect you to produce.
Your time and place of birth is cited, usually identifying parents and
even grandparents. Naming siblings
is useful, and placing yourself in the family unit …. you are the third of six
Identifying the city or cities in which you grew up, perhaps citing why
your family was in those (that) location(s). For example, your father was a civil
engineer working at a construction company there.
Your educational experience is good. Naming grammar, middle, junior high and
high schools attended and year of high school graduation may be useful. Included should be any post high school
education, naming the various institutions and the degrees or certifications
Your marriage should be mentioned, if you are married, giving when (the year) and
where such took place and listing children who may have issued from the
marriage. In the case of multiple
marriages, you should be selective what is said, as sometimes the endings of
earlier marriages are unpleasant. You may be in your third marriage, but
can choose to describe only your current marriage situation.
Making mention of your life’s work or profession is good, without going
into the detail usually reserved in a Professional Biographical sketch. Any other special interests. hobbies, community actlivities or
experiences may be described.
This sketch usually gives focus on the various occupations or
professions you have pursued. It
can cite from where you came (grew up in Kansas City, MO), and describe college
and post graduate accomplishments.
The kinds of information would be what an audience would like to know
about you as a speaker or presenter in a work situation or conference. It can cover a reange of different vocartional pursuits you've followed. This type of biographical sketch is
distributed, usually, in the preparation of an event that you will be
This biographical sketch is confined to describe the settings within
your current employment.
Identifying the employer or reason for your functioning occupationally
(being an independent consultant) at that place is useful in websites, for
example, of sketches of the primary staff of an organization.
If you’ve served in that organization for a long time, often there are
several positons served that can be described, with focus being given to the
This type of biographical sketch is describing your activity in and on
behalf of organizations in your community.
It may have to do with volunteers at your children’s schools, your
leadership in civic organizations, or specialties, such as historic or hobby
Besides your experience in these events, describing roles you’ve served
is good. Have you been elected to
leadership positions, etc.? Are
there any certifications or awards which give credit to your presence in these
If you have activity in political circles, this is where you can detail
that path, usually displaying it in a Chronological order, but possibly have
the lead sentences surround your current position.
As a specialized hobby, sometimes you are involved in tracing the
ancestry in the family lines from which you are descended. Sometimes, these sketches are useful for
audiences you will be addressing about your heritage or about a subject of genealogical
Generally, this would cite the heritage from which you came. Were your ancestors of eastern or
western European links, of African links, of Hispanic links or those from the
Orient? The earliest dates in your
information often is of interest.
Does your knowledge of ancestry go back to your great grandparents, or
maybe back to your 10th great grandparents?
Are you a member of groups such as the Sons (or Daughters) of the
American Revolution? Perhaps you
are a Son (or Daughter) of the Republic of Texas, etc. Maybe you are a member of the Mayflower
Society. Often these are viable
groups active in your area with organizations in which you might have served in
A spiritual biographical sketch is not exactly the publication of your
spiritual testimony. Your Christian
testimony, for example, may have elements in the spiritual biographical sketch,
but the sketch usually is intended to introduce you to a reading or expected
listening audience with interests in those spiritual matters.
Your spiritual testimony is different, in that it is expected to be a
stand-alone article or a verbal message you deliver to a listening audience.
Give description about your spiritual orientation growing up in your
family, etc. Where and when did
your spiritual maturity and understanding began to flourish for you,
personally? Briefly, what were those
A citation often is included about roles or activities you currently
pursue in the structure of your spiritual life and motivations.
Hopefully, these guidelines will help you create whatever biographical sketches you need.
Guidance developed by:
Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe
Dwight Albert Sharpe