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Writing a Profile Essay

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1 Writing a Profile Essay

2 About the Profile… The purpose of the profile essay is to present the subject vividly to your readers It should convey a particular attitude towards your subject - your interpretation of it The profile essay is very much part expressive, part objective It’s objective in that you want to inform your readers about your subject At the same time you are also conveying a kind of personal interpretation, a personal perspective; so in that sense, it’s expressive This kind of writing helps you practice the field research used across many disciplines: observing, interviewing, and note taking

3 Biographical? The profile essay shares many features with the autobiographical and biographical writing - you can use narrative, anecdote, description, dialogue It also differs significantly: autobiography is about remembered experience whereas profile is (usually) about newly acquired observations - acquired firsthand or through research

4 Basic Features… A vivid presentation:
An intriguing, well-focused subject: A person, place, or activity. The familiar or the strange. Whatever your subject, your goal is to bring out the uniqueness. You want to show the reader what’s amazing or fascinating about it to you… A vivid presentation: Don’t generalize; be particular. Instead of writing about “teenagers” in general, a profiler will show his audience a vivid portrait of one in particular.

5 More Must Haves… A dominant impression:
Convey your personal interpretation of your subject, your own special insights. This interpretive element is what separates the profile as a “genre” from other forms of descriptive and narrative writing. An engaging and informative plan: You are master of ceremonies; you control the flow of information. How much should you tell and in what order? What do you want your readers to fully understand?

6 Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay

7 Clarifying Your Direction
Try answering these questions Why are you interested in this subject? What led you to choose it? What kind of attitude do you have towards it? What’s your feeling about it? Broadly, what do you feel confident that you already know about this subject? How did you come by that knowledge? What do other people think of the subject you’re writing about? Is your view different than theirs? Do you have a unique perspective? Have you observed your subject directly? Will you rely on memory or on informal kinds of research? Do you think it would be a good idea to include interview material? What information would you like readers to have about your subject? What’s your “purpose” for writing this profile? What should readers come away with?

8 Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
What to describe? What are 3-5 things will you want to describe vividly in your profile?

9 Deciding on the Dominant Impression
Your profile should be informative, but not completely neutral. Readers will learn about your subject through learning about your impressions of your subject. The profile should ultimately convey a point of view - a way of seeing and understanding the significance of the person being profiled. What is the most interesting, unusual, or important thing you have discovered about your subject? What are your own feelings about your subject? What two (or more) dominant impressions can you create to give readers a way of understanding your subject? How can you use the technique from the PDJ of creating a metaphor to help you solidify the dominant impression?

10 Why do writers use the “profile”?
Magazines and newspapers are usually filled with profiles that tell us about interesting people, places, activities They’re called “human interest” stories They are interesting because they take you behind the scenes of familiar places The writer usually conveys an interesting interpretation or perspective that gives the reader sometime to respond to

11 Summary Profiles work when they mean something to you personally
They are rich with specific, sensory detail that helps the reader feel “present” They have a thematic thread woven through them that teaches us why we should care about your subject A good profile exercises a lot of different skills, and it should show in your writing

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