1st person? 3rd person? Tell me the rules!

This week I wrote in the Art Marketing Action newsletter about the differences between your bio and your statement. As I said, there are no hard and fast rules. There is no overseer of the perfect statement and bio that is going to come get you for not adhering to rules that never existed. Breathe a sigh of relief. You can’t go wrong unless you have a bunch of type-os, use poor grammar, or are otherwise sloppy. But you can be clearer, which is what the newsletter is about.

I believe, however, that there is an exception to the “bio in the 3rd person” rule, which I am clarifying here for Hap Hagood and Richard Chapman. And that’s when the information is on your Web site. Sorry I wasn’t clear about this before. Things that are requested of you to be in print are often different than what we want to see online. These are my thoughts . . .

291_thoth_good_color_2It’s perfectly okay to combine your statement with your bio on an “About the Artist” page and write everything in 3rd person. If you separate them, just don’t call your statement a statement because a statement should be in 1st person. Statements come from individual’s lips, pens, or fingertips.

It’s also perfectly okay to do the same and write everything in 1st person. I’m kind of a stickler (or try to learn and get better) about correct grammar. So, I prefer that a bio in 1st person is called “About Me” (check out mine). As I said, though, no one is going to come and get you for breaking my guidelines.

And, Richard, I agree. Bios can be dreary and dull. You blame it on the passive voice; I blame it on lack of creativity when writing. A bio in the 1st person can evoke every bit of ennui as one written in the 3rd person. (I refuse to point fingers.) Listen to my podcast "Spice Up Your Bio."

Image (c) Hap Hagood, Thoth.

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8 comments to 1st person? 3rd person? Tell me the rules!

  • Thank you for this article. After reading it I went to my blog and realized I had only a one line bio! I’m having such a hard time trying to write about myself.

  • “You can’t go wrong unless you have a bunch of type-os, use poor grammar, or are otherwise sloppy.” Alyson, you forgot spelling!. Typos, sloppy writing and poor grammar are red flags for me whether on blogs or websites yet I sometimes reread my own writing with a great big “Aarggh!” There may not be a great overseer, but your info will be less effective for your readers. I do agree that bios can be either first or third person if care is taken not to mix them and that the statement should be first person. However, for a combination, the ‘third person’ biographer can easily ‘quote’ the first person artist’s statement.

  • I wrote my online bio in the first person, but I titled it “About Daniel Sroka”: http://www.danielsroka.com/biography.php I agree, the grammar makes me cringe. But I did it for the kids.. I mean, the search engines. As the title for the page (in an H1 tag) I wanted to make sure that the search engines scanned the concept “About Daniel Sroka” instead of the more generic, but grammatically-correct “About me”. Does it really make a difference? I’m not sure, but it was worth a try.

  • Judy K: Read the book BRAG! It’s linked in my left column and is wonderful in helping you tell your story. Annette: Good point. Dan: Never hurts!

  • Hi Alyson, I was writing my first ever grant application and had finished the resume (first I had written since my ’20s) – using your guidelines for help. Then I turned to tweak my bio and artist statement – which I have had and been making changes on for years … took a deep breath, and – oh, let’s check the email again before I dive in. Lo and behold .. an marketing newsletter from you titled “writing your bio and artist statement”! Pretty cool … so I read what you wrote before I tweaked. Thank you! ~ Diane Clancy http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog

  • Thanks for providing this information. I am writing an article for the newsletter of our local art league about writing a bio. I have been doing research to make sure I have my facts straight. First person or third person has been confusing to me in the past. This clears things up. I am constantly revising my husbands bio. I am now trying to add statements about each work to make his website more interesting and informative to visitors. http://www.PaulKeysar.com