How to Write a Biography Essay?

Oct 16, 2023

How to Write a Biography Essay?

A biography is a fascinating literary genre with its roots going far back into human history. Biographies were told and retold in the form of legends and myths long before humanity learned how to write by hand and print using machines. At the same time, the modern biography essay is a completely new and stand-alone form of academic writing. 

Take a few minutes to learn more about what a biography essay is, and how to write a strong one in a handful of easy steps.     

What is a Biographical Essay

A biography essay is a narrative type of academic writing that focuses on telling the life story of a particular person. The key here is “life story,” as writing a biographical essay is all about describing someone’s life path, as opposed to describing a story of an object, place, or event, as in a somewhat similar profile essay. 

How is a Biography Essay Different from a Profile Essay?

Aspect Biography Essay Profile Essay
Subject About a specific person’s entire life. Can be about a person, place, event, or thing.
Scope Comprehensive, covering the subject’s entire life. Focused on a specific aspect or facet of the subject.
Chronology Chronological, following the subject’s life timeline. May not be strictly chronological; can follow thematic or narrative structures.
Tone Maintains an objective and informative tone. Can have a more varied tone, reflecting the author’s interpretation and insights.
Length Tends to be longer due to comprehensive coverage. Generally shorter, as it focuses on a specific aspect of the subject.

The purpose of biography essay is to provide an extensive and objective account of the subject’s life. The latter can be an outstanding contemporary personality, a celebrity, a famous historical, cultural, political, sports, or any other prominent figure, as well as a less-known personality with a life story worth telling. 

The most appropriate tone of voice used in a biography essay is informative and educating, often reflecting cultural and historical context. The author of a biography essay has to present a detailed and comprehensive portrait of the individual in focus, emphasizing their character traits, personal experiences, life challenges, as well as achievements and contributions.

Biography essays are also famous for their humanizing aspect. The writer intentionally or unintentionally cultivates empathy and a sense of attachment to the portrayed individual among readers. This is one known feature that the modern biography genre has inherited from legends and myths – the ancestors of the biography essay genre. 

Steps in Writing a Biography Essay

To streamline your writing process, follow these simple steps:

  • Choose an interesting personality to write about. Unless your assignment prescribes you to write about a particular figure, you should come up with a figure of your choice, and be genuinely motivated to do your best portraying them.

Here are some ideas of interesting personalities, who are not frequent subjects of biography papers:

Name Birth-Death Years Significance
Hedy Lamarr 1914-2000 Hollywood actress and inventor of frequency hopping
Harriet Quimby 1875-1912 Aviator, first American woman to earn a pilot’s license
Mary Anning 1799-1847 Fossil collector and pioneering paleontologist
Edmonia Lewis 1844-1907 African-American and Native American sculptor
Ida B. Wells 1862-1931 Journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching activist
Paul Erdős 1913-1996 Renowned Hungarian mathematician, the “nomadic”
Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Children’s author and illustrator, “Peter Rabbit”
Nellie Bly 1864-1922 Female journalist, “Around the World in 72 Days”
Grace Hopper 1906-1992 Computer scientist, COBOL language co-developer
  • Conduct thorough research. Study your subject in and out, including their personality traits and the impact they’ve made on other people. Come up with a goal for your essay. 
  • Prepare an outline. Never save your time and energy on writing an outline, as it will massively speed up your work and add a professional, structured touch to it (you can find an outline template in the next chapter).
  • Write your text according to the intended goal and outline.
  • Structure your text. A classic academic essay structure stipulates 3-5 body paragraphs, however, if your essay text exceeds that volume, it may be worth breaking it into thematic sections – chapters and subheadings.
  • Edit and proofread to improve readability and correct errors/typos. Small electronic assistants, such as Google Docs Grammar Checker, will significantly enhance your efficiency.

Don’t be afraid to improvise and be creative when writing your paper. You can add bulleted lists, provide examples, and tell anecdotes – a biography essay is an objective, but highly creative type of academic writing. You may also want to revisit your introduction to adjust it according to your storyline and conclusion. 

Biographical Essay Outline

What does a biography include? You have a person to describe and tell their life story, but what exactly shall you talk about? 

The following biography essay template will give you plenty of ideas:

  1. Introduction
    • Briefly introduce the subject of your biography essay.
    • Finish the introduction with a clear thesis statement (in most essays of this genre, it means stating the intention to describe the life of a person). 
  2. Early Life
    • Give a glimpse into the person’s childhood, focusing on family members, birthplace, and talents and skills shown by the person in the childhood.
    • Add the cultural, social, and economic context that helped to shape the personality.
    • Who had a significant influence on the person early on?
  3. Education
    • Discuss the education that the person obtained, either formal or informal (mentors, spiritual fathers).
  4. Obstacles and achievements
    • Highlight any significant achievements in their area of expertise or the society as a whole. Provide examples and evidence.
    • List the major obstacles and challenges that the person overcame.
  5. Private life
    • Give insights into the major events in the private life, including family, friends, and romantic relationships.
    • Emphasize the relationships that helped to shape the personality of the subject.
  6. Legacy
    • Discuss the major contributions and influence the person had on their field or in a broader context.
    • Talk about how the person’s legacy continues to live and impact us.
  7. Conclusion
    • Reflect on the life of the person. Emphasize major lessons and inspirational influences.
    • Revisit the thesis statement and stress the importance of understanding the subject’s life path and acknowledging the legacy.

Take the above template as a baseline of what’s possible, rather than a dogma to follow step-by-step. For example, your subject may have a significant professional legacy to expand on, but no information available about their education or private life.

Biographical Essay Example

Take a look at this example of a strong biography essay. Notice how the author, in a relatively small text, manages to highlight all the major milestones of Marie Curie’s life journey, including education, a romantic relationship (that ultimately defined her career), challenges, professional achievements, and legacy.

How to write a biography essay 2

How to Write a Biography About Yourself

A biography about oneself is called an autobiography. It is another popular literary genre, which we sometimes confuse with a simple biography. An autobiography follows the same guidelines on the structure, though, it also carries a number of important differences.

Firstly, it is written in the first-person voice, since this is a story about oneself. You tell the reader about your life path, and there is no alternative to being personal. 

Secondly, in a biography about yourself, you cannot avoid being subjective. Of course, you can try being objective, but you cannot avoid taking a biased perspective when talking about your achievements and merits.    

To better understand all the nuances that differ a biography from an autobiography, check out this summary:

Attribute Biography Autobiography
Authorship Is written by an author who is not the subject of the paper.  Is written by the subject of the paper. 
Author’s Role The author is an external observer and researcher. To provide a firsthand account of their own life.
Perspective Third-person perspective First-person perspective
Tone of voice Objective tone Subjective tone


Final Thoughts

By writing a biography you are making history. Perhaps, the details you’ll find about the person’s life, and the unique perspective you’ll offer into their legacy, might make your essay stand out from hundreds and thousands of others. Some people prefer learning history by names, not by events and the change of epochs, as essentially, it is the people who make all the difference by moving our civilization forward.

Take this guide as a starting point in learning how to write a good biography essay, but continue improving your skills through meticulous practice. If you want some further tips on writing a biography essay, contact us at


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