Forums: User Submission Support: Submission Tips Column #10 - How to Write a Better Biography (pt 1)

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    [1]Jun 22, 2007
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    How to Write a Better Biography (Part 1)

    The Star Biography section of sometimes confuses people, and staff receives a lot of... odd submissions. This column and the next we're going to provide some useful guidelines on creating new submissions for a star's Biography page.

    Make sure you have the right person

    When you first come to a star page, check and see if they have any Appearances. Click on the Credits tab or click on All Appearances at the bottom of the page. If there are no Appearances there's a good chance the page exists in error.

    If there is only one appearance and you know the star had more, it's likely the page you're looking at was created by a typo. Go to a show where the star appeared and see what name they have there.

    Common typos that generate duplicate listings include someone using an actor's alias, and someone double-spacing between the first and last names

    Finally, if a person is listed as a Show Star but is not listed for at least one episode, they will not show on the star's page under Appearances. Please submit them for at least one episode they appeared in.

    In any case, if you have confirmed you have a "dud" entry, please follow the Person Submission Guidelines and PM a staff member like danmod to have it removed. Cleaning up appearances resulting from a dud entry will be covered in a future column.

    Credited Name Field

    You should rarely change this. If you do change it, it will change the star on every page where they have an appearance. If there is some reason to change it, make sure that name doesn't already exist in the database. Never duplicate an existing name. A (II), (III), etc., can be put after the name as necessary ("William Shatner (II)"). Avoid nicknames unless they are the commonly credited name: William Shatner isn't credited "Bill Shatner."

    First/Middle/Last Name Fields

    These fields should always have data as appropriate. If they don't, please fill them in so they show up on the search engine. These fields should always reflect the credited name.
    For band names, put the full band name in the "First Name" field.


    A II or III used here should indicate son of, or grandson of ("Thurston Howell III"). Do not use this field to indicate multiple actors with the same name: that goes under Credited Name as above.


    Gender must always be entered if it's not present already.

    Enter A New Alias

    You can enter multiple aliases by separating them with a comma and a space ("Bill Shatner, Billy Shatner, "Big Bill" Shatner"). Aliases are commonly other working names that the actor performs under. Nicknames are not aliases. Uncommon nicknames should be entered as Trivia. Joke credits aren't working aliases and (at best) should be entered as Trivia.

    Birth Name

    Typically the same as the First/Middle/Last Name, but not always. Please do some research and make sure you are entering the correct birth name, particularly if you're dealing with a woman's married versus maiden name.

    Birth Place

    Standard City/State formatting applies. "New York City, NY." Country name should be provided for birth places outside the U.S.: since a state is included specifying USA isn't required.


    First of all, the standard warning applies: don't cut-n-paste from other sites. Submit your own material, not someone else's. As per the Person Submission Guidelines, "A brief Biography should sum up the person's career, have unique content rather then restate material already on the page, and be roughly 50+ words long and contain two or more sentences." Sounds easy, but how do you do it? Let's start with a few don'ts for new submissions:

    Don't submit a lot of trivia and little or no Biography. See if you can pull together at least 4-5 related Trivia items and make a biography out of them.

    Don't repeat information already on the page. There are fields for birthdate and birthplace. Appearances are listed later on the bio page. Don't include Trivia in the bio.

    Don't forget formatting. Titles of shows and songs are still italicized, bolded, or in quotation marks, all the same way on the page for consistency.

    Don't put in personal opinions. You can enter a review for the person in the review section. Statements like "They are a great actor and hopefully will go on to do wonderful things" are not biographical statements.

    Don't just sum them up with a single sentence: people are more complicated than that. If you don't know much about them, don't try to write a biography: it won't work. A single sentence is probably Trivia.

    Don't continually update. Marriages and divorce and children and graduations are covered under Trivia. Appearances are covered under... Appearances. Enter information that is almost certain not to change in a month or a year.

    So what do you write for the biography? Please provide a relatively brief summary of their life, with everything flowing together in chronological order. If you're considering submitting Trivia, look at it and see if it can be tied together into a biographical statement. For Fred Jones, saying, "He went to John J. Smith High School in Kentucky, graduated in 1958, and then went to Bluegrass Community College and graduated with a degree in Animal Husbandry" makes more sense and is easier to read, rather than three separate Trivia items saying the same thing.

    Another example:

    Good: "After graduating from John J. Smith High School, he went to the School of Performing Arts for three years and specialized in piano, then auditioned for a Broadway show in 1965 and was cast as the Leading Player in Pippin."

    Bad: Four Trivia items:

    "He went to the John J. Smith High School.
    "He attended the School of Performing Arts for three years."
    "He specialized in piano."
    "In 1965 he auditioned for Pippin and was cast as the Leading Player."

    There's no absolute rule for what make a good biography. However, basically it should give a concise summation of their career without being so open-ended it needs to be updated every month.


    Once the star dies, updating material to the past tense is acceptable. Writing one last complete biography is also permissible.

    Next column: How to Write a Better Biography (pt 2)


    Previous columns:

    Write Like You Talk
    Sourcing Your Material
    Know Your Capitals!
    A Matter of Timing
    Soundalikes and You
    Periods and Commas and Colons, Oh My!
    Apostrophes, Hyphens, and Quotation Marks, Oh My!
    Numbers and You
    New Season New Shows
    Edited on 06/03/2008 3:39pm
    Edited 7 total times.
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