how to write a profile

Profile Writing 101: Guest Blog by Marissa Merkt

Cider Spoon Stories’s spring intern, Marissa Merkt!

Cider Spoon Stories’s spring intern, Marissa Merkt!

In addition to interning with Cider Spoon Stories, I write cat profiles for a local animal shelter, Austin Pets Alive (APA!). A profile is a type of feature story that covers a particular person—or in my case, cat—and what they are currently up to. Oftentimes, magazines highlight celebrities with a profile.  

But how do you successfully write a profile, capturing someone's total essence?

Start Strong

First off, grab the reader’s attention right away. Make them want to read on and find out more about the person you are writing about.

Rachel Deah, columnist and news director for Publishers Weekly, advises, “Readers will decide whether to keep reading based on your lede and how much you have piqued their interest.”

Cover the Basics

Make sure you include the most important facts. Try to weed out the unnecessary filler information and find, as Marie Kondo would recommend, “what is purposeful.” Today's attention span is brief, so the shorter the better.

Additionally, make sure all your facts are correct. Common mistakes include incorrect name spellings, locations, and dates.

Identify a Key Characteristic

How do you want your subject to be remembered? Are they a nature-lover like Anne of Green Gables, or maybe a tough fighter like Katniss Everdeen? Try to come up with a couple characteristics to focus on when writing your profile. This makes the profile more interesting and less like a boring biography report.

Keep in mind that writing is more powerful when you “show, don't tell.” This can be done through word choice and descriptions. For instance, if I am writing about a single mom who worked 3 jobs to support her children, I don’t need to state that she is resilient. Just by describing her work ethic, you can see this.

Feature a Catchy Anecdote

Writing profiles is fun when you follow these easy steps!

Writing profiles is fun when you follow these easy steps!

As mentioned in our bio-writing class, engage the audience with something funny and entertaining. Don't just state mundane facts. Is there a quirky story on how the subject got involved with their vocation? Typically, for my cat profiles I make a joke or reference based on their name. For example, one cat was named Ralph, so I alluded to the Disney beast by writing: “Ralph is on a mission to wreck people’s hearts with his too-cute-to-handle face.”

Keep the Goal in Mind

For my cat profiles, the end goal is to portray the cats in a positive light, so they get adopted. Is the profile you’re writing for the subject’s company website? A graduation program? Purpose drives the writing style and determines what material to cover.

Happy writing! If all else fails, hire a profile writer!