How to Write a Short Autobiography

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How to Write a Short Autobiography

You may be asked to write a short autobiography every now and then, whether it’s for a school assignment, a job application, or a contest you want to join.  Autobiographies may sound simple, but it can be quite challenging when you’re already writing it.  Here are some tips to help you write a short autobiography.

What Is An Autobiography?

An autobiography is a story of one’s life told from the first-person perspective.  Most autobiographies are chronological stories that describe the life of a person from childhood to adulthood, and may be divided into anthologies, series, and sequels.  Many important people, like politicians and business figures, write autobiographies to give inspirational stories about their success.  Some people may also write autobiographies because they went through a moving and significant experience that may move, inspire, or entertain other people.

While you’re not expected to write a very moving and powerful autobiography worth a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize, it pays to write an autobiography that will impress your teachers, a prospective employer, or the judges of an essay writing contest.  Writing an autobiography is not easy, but you can make it simple if you follow some simple reminders.

Writing Short Texts

It’s often easier to write long stories than short ones.  You may get carried away with poetic descriptions, or you may have the urge to tell all sorts of stories in a single text.  To keep your autobiography short, follow these reminders:

  • Use short sentences. Long sentences will mean a longer autobiography.  Instead of using long sentences, use short sentences that get straight to the point of the message you want to convey.
  • Focus your story. Many events happen in people’s lives, and people have the tendency to write so many stories and try to cram all the plotlines into one text.  Pick two or three events that are related, and weave them together into one story.
  • Take a step back. Sometimes you may be too engrossed in what you’re writing that you tend to write something too long, or your thoughts may be scattered all over the place.  From time to time, stop writing and re-read what you have already written, and rephrase or correct sentences which you feel do not belong to the text.

Key Elements: Time and Space

Autobiographies need not be as complicated as you imagine them to be.  Autobiographies need not have many characters or multiple settings, although you should take note that all autobiographies involve two important elements:

  • Time. All stories take place in a certain time period.  If you’re asked to write a long autobiography, then you may tell the story of your life from the very beginning.  For short autobiographies, however, you need to set the time-frame of your story to a scope as wide as needed.  Instead of focusing on too many events or insights, pick the most important memory you have in mind, and use that to build upon your story.
  • Space. All stories take place in a setting.  One way to keep your autobiography concise and compact is to focus on just one place where one or two significant events happen.  Use the place as a way for you to keep the plot of your autobiography tight.

Keep It Factual

Unlike fiction and memoirs, an autobiography has to be based on facts.  The only creative license you can apply to an autobiography is the way you write it.  While you can use metaphors, figures of speech, and other creative ways to write your autobiography, the aim is to write the autobiography as truthfully as possible.  While you don’t need to dig up old documents or talk to everyone you know to corroborate and verify your story, you need to be has honest as possible when writing your autobiography.

The best teller of any true-to-life story is the person who lived that experience himself or herself.  Writing an autobiography does not have to take you too long, provided you have these tips in mind.



  1. Eileen Sobieck said,

    on December 27th, 2010 at 8:03 am

    How do you write a short autobiography for a job application?