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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

Guidelines to Follow When Writing a Profile Essay

There are many aspects that a profile essay can present. It usually focuses on a certain person, a thing or a specific place, yet the most common is the portrayal of a specific person, where the author of the essay has to provide relevant information on that person, such as who he or she is and what makes them important. One of the things you need to know before you actually start writing a profile essay is that it’s not similar to any other types of essays. It doesn’t follow the structure of an argumentative or narrative essay for instance. Instead, its structure is less rigid and the author is allowed to take more various approaches. If you don’t know where to start from and how to end a profile essay, we suggest you read the rest of the article below, as you’ll find some very helpful guidelines.

The tone is highly important

One huge difference between a profile essay and other similar writing assignments is related to the tone. Profile essays do maintain a professional and sometimes academic tone, but the author can be more flexible about it compared to when writing argumentative essays for instance. Even so, the second person “you” should still not be used within the essay, but there are some exceptions where the use of the first person “I” is actually allowed, such as when presenting an interview dialogue between the author (who is also the profiler) and the person that is being profiled. Keep in mind though, that you should not exaggerate with it, because using the first person excessively can actually distract the reader from the thing or the person that is being profiled. In such situations, the focus is more put on the author, and considering that the essay is not about YOU, using the first person too much is definitely to be avoided.

Consider how you organize the essay

There are various ways in which you can organize and structure a profile essay, but two of the most common approaches are the thematic format and the chronological format. Here’s what each of them implies:

The thematic format

Structuring the profile essay by theme is a common practice, especially if the person being profiled has a discussion on several different areas with the profiler. For instance, the interviewee might choose to discuss first about the period in their adolescence when they were part of a theatre troupe, then go on to talking about marriage and children, and then talk about the period when they rediscovered the theatre after many years of leaving it aside. In such situations, it is understandable and even advised you organize your essay by theme and comprise the two periods of the interviewee’s life related to the theatre in one paragraph only. Even though these were different periods of their life, they refer to the same thing, so it’s best to create one paragraph that discusses about this aspect. The thematic format allows you to structure the essay by types of experiences your interviewees had. Thus, have one paragraph to discuss about their families, another one to discuss about theatre experiences, another one about memorable vacations and so on.

The chronological format

An alternative to the thematic format is the chronological one. If your profile essay is based on an interview you took to a certain person, organizing the experiences that person had in chronological order is a good idea. Thus, you’ll have to place the early periods and experiences of the interviewee’s life in the beginning of the essay and go on with them chronologically. Talk about their childhood and school first, then go on with their marriage life, with their careers and their plans for the future. Include each of these periods in separate paragraphs. Even though this might seem like simple and linear way to cover the discussion had with your interviewee, it’s a safe and good practice that never fails.

The thesis statement is the core point

Just like in the case of all other types of essays, the most essential point is the thesis. It goes without saying though, that when it comes to profile essays, the thesis is quite different from what you’ve known about it. If in most cases the thesis is some sort of an “argument”, where the author has to detail their position with respect to the topic of the essay, here the thesis is centered on a specific topic. Some people argue that in the case of all essays, be them critical analysis or argumentative papers, the thesis should present the main point of the essay, which can be the moral of the story, or even an evaluation of the essay topic. This would be a better approach compared to the one that is already used – to present whether or not the author agrees with a certain subject. Since there is a certain topic that the profile essay revolves around, the thesis should also be centered around that topic. The thesis should provide relevant answers to questions such as Why is this person or profile important? What’s the main point of this essay? What’s the essential thing the reader should take away from here?

Pay attention to the style

In some situations, the author knows very well the person being profiled, as they are a neighbor or a good friend. When this happens, the highest amount of information that will be used in the essay will be gathered from personal interviews mostly. Thus, the essay and the interview format used in it should be similar to the ones present in magazines. There, the author jumps from one moment to another with the interviewee’s life and switches off between different periods of their lives. Direct quotes and paraphrases go hand in hand in such situations and you can encounter both of them in the same paragraph. By alternating between the two techniques in the same paragraph, you convince the reader that the information presented is fresh. All things considered, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll definitely end up writing an excellent profile essay.