Biography as a resume’?

Sure, I think a three or four-sentence biography can work as an addition to a regular resume’. It’s one more way to introduce yourself, or briefly discuss your expertise.

When I’m asked to write for a newspaper or magazine, I often include a very brief bio at the end of the article. But in that case, I don’t include details of my entire professional life.

Instead, I simply detail what qualifies me to write about the particular subject discussed in the article. And if it is for a professional magazine, I often include my e-mail if a reader would like more information on the technical subject I discussed.

PLEASE E-MAIL ME if you’ve got other ideas for an ultra-short biography. Then, with your permission, I’ll include it in this blog. My e-mail is

Write your Minute Bio today!

A friend whose parents recently died told me she wished she’d ask them more questions about their early lives.

“They grew up during the Depression,” she said, “and struggled hard just to give their children a better life. I do wish they’d written something down, so we kids would know more about the schools they attended, and the early jobs they had.”

No matter what your age, you can begin writing a “mini-biography,” a 200 to 500-word story of your life thus far. It’s something you can gift to children, grandchildren, and friends who’ve helped you along the way.

Don’t worry getting off to the perfect start. Just start writing down what you remember. You can move paragraphs around later.

Answer these questions to help you get started: What’s the greatest day of your life? What’s the first memory you have? What do you remember about elementary school? What do you like most about your career?

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

What are thumbnail biographies?

  • As a trade magazine editor for about 20 years, I wrote “thumbnail” biographies.
  • Most of the thumbnails I wrote were about 200-250 words, and usually discussed a person who had either invented a new product or been named to leadership of a company. Here’s the format I followed:
  • = Primary information — I began with a sentence highlighting the individual’s name, plus his/her discovery or new position. Example: “David Author created the Paragraph Link System to help students write better, and the concept has now been purchased by a national organization.”
  • = Background — This offers reasons the inventor created a product, or details the jobs a person held prior to the position described in this story.
  • = Future — How has the inventor changed the industry, or what are the new executive’s plans?
  • = Contact info — Provides whom the reader can call or e-mail for more information on the subject.
  • Look to your left…subscribe to the Quinn Minute blog today.

“Meet and greet” opening words

I’ve been told that the “most natural” way to start a feature, e-mail, or essay is to pretend you just met your reader at a party. If that happened, how would your conversation begin?

  1. Ask a question — “What do you think this hotel will look like when it’s sold to the new owner?”
  2. Flashback — “As we drove up to the hotel today, I suddenly remembered the first time I was here…when my cousin got married five years ago.”
  3. Start with dialog — “As I walked into the party, the host greeted me with a puzzled look, then asked ‘Didn’t we go to high school together?'”
  4. Who, what, where, when, why, how — Just answer one of these words about your future story to get the writing to flow. Example: “I asked myself how I’d been selected to receive this award, and then I remembered the wonderful high school instructor who taught me so much.”
  5. Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Problem, effect, solution

An old reporter once said that good stories require three things from the writer:

  1. Problem — He or she must define and describe the dilemma.
  2. Effect — What effect does the problem have on the principal character, so that the character will have a reason to solve it?
  3. Solution — How is the problem addressed, and how it is solved…or not solved?

In 30 years I’ve been assigned news stories, features, biographies, and question-answer columns. Nearly all of them required that I address a problem, explain the effect it had, and conclude by either pointing out a solution or presenting the main character’s plan to develop a solution.

Even humorous stories often begin with a problem. Have you ever noticed this when you read comic strips.

When you’re assigned to write a story, e-mail, or essay, do you first start out by defining the problem?

E-mail me how you discovered or defined a problem, and how you solved it. My e-mail address is

Where do I begin?

One of writing’s most-discussed topics is “How should I begin my essay (or e-mail, letter, etc.)?”

When the subject arises, an oft-quoted phrase is the opening sentence of the famous writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford: “It was a dark and stormy night.” I personally love that line, and I’ll tell you why:

I’m a “mood” person. I think it’s important to first set the mood of any essay. Other options are to begin with a question, or a quote, or maybe dialog.

Think of how many movies start by creating a “mood.” The camera first offers a distant view of a farm house on a snowy day, then zooms in for a close-up of a window, then moves into the living room for the first view of the main characters.

Consider how many ways a “mood” style first sentence might help you begin what you want to say.

Rix Quinn’s new e-book is called “How to Sell Ideas with the Minute Message.”

What can you say in one minute?

 As you know, short messages and stories are centuries old. But I want to emphasize the major reasons ultra-short message delivery makes sense for 21st century newspaper, magazine, newsletter, memo, or e-mail.

1. The average person’s reading speed is about 250 words per minute.

2. The length of an average local television news story is about 41 seconds. The length of today’s average movie scene is about 90 seconds.

3. The typical radio or television advertisement is 30 seconds to 60 seconds long. That’s about 75 to 150 words.

4. The approximate length of one of Aesop’s Fables is about 250 words.

5. If the average newspaper feature is about 800 words, you can fit about three minute messages into the same space as one 800-word feature.

6. They are the ideal length for editorials, letters to the editor, weather forecasts, civic club reports, how-to, self-help, and question-answer columns.

7. A 150-word feature can easily be recorded in a radio-style audio, which can be placed on a publication’s or corporation’s web site. It’s another way to communicate with an audience.

8. A publication or newsletter can also use a minute message to create advertising for clients.