Best Tips on Writing an Autobiographical Essay

By Karen Palmer on December 2020
Category: Essay Writing

two girls are writing their essays

When writing an ordinary essay, you know what to write about and how to structure your essay. At least you can look through some examples and define what you want your paper to look like. But what should you do when writing an autobiography? This is the task that might be challenging for the majority of students, but not for you because we have great tips for you on how you can write an autobiography yourself.

What Is an Autobiography?

An autobiographical essay is a written piece that tells a true story of an author. Usually, it is focused on a person’s life and the most valuable experience, sightings, or events. It should not be confused with memoirs, which is a related genre. Memoirs are often more emotional and detailed, focused on a specific time period, while an autobiography documents the whole person’s life.

When writing an autobiography, it’s crucial to understand why you are writing it and who your readers are. Ask yourself what your reader wants to know about you and what information is the most important. For example, your reader needs to know your age, so the majority of autobiographies start with the date and place of birth.

How Long Should It Be?

When working on your autobiography, it’s easy to be frustrated by the length of it. Should you make it long and detailed or brief and concise? It all depends on your learning institution and the guidelines provided by your professors. But usually, an autobiography as a part of the college program shouldn’t be very long and can be written just like an ordinary five-paragraph essay.

What to Write About?

It’s hard to speak about some particular pattern when writing about your life because we all are so different. However, there are some things that you should definitely include in your autobiography as they are very common among college students. Here are a few things that might be a good fit for your work:

  1. Your date and place of birth. This is the easiest part and the first thing that comes to mind when talking about your life story. Your hometown and the date when you were born are significant for a reader in order to better understand who they are reading about. 
  2. Your childhood and family. You can write a few words about your family and the place where you spent your childhood. There is no need to list all of your family members, but you can also write about your closest ones.
  3. Significant milestones in education. The schools that you attended and the most vivid memories about your learning experience or your teachers are a perfect thing to write about in your autobiography. When talking about it, you should stick to a timeline and include dates if you want to.
  4. The struggles that you faced. We all go through some difficulties – it makes us who we are. It’s crucial to mention a few moments that built your personality. For example, you might say, “It was hard for me to find friends.” or “The conflicts with my sister brought a lot of anxiety in my life.” These are just little insights but powerful enough to let your reader know more about you. However, you should also talk about the life lessons that you learned from that time period and how you managed to overcome the struggles to become who you are now.
  5. The most valuable experiences. Alongside the low points in your life, you should also mention a few significant moments that stuck in your memory. These should be little stories that you consider your victories or life-turning points. For example, how you found what you want to do in your life or how you helped someone.
  6. Professional experiences, if you have any. When talking about the profession, it’s not always the niche you want to build your career in. Even some small part-time jobs of yours can be worth being put in an autobiography, especially if you are a college student.

Your life experience is unique; remember that when writing your autobiography. Even if you think that some things aren’t that significant for your reader but are significant to you personally, you should definitely include them in your work. Don’t be limited by the points above.

What can really help you with your work is looking through some autobiographical essay samples that you can find online or in your learning institution’s archives. Sometimes it brings a new perspective and can help you remember some events in your life that are worth being put into your work.

Steps of Writing

Every written piece that you work on for your school usually takes a few steps to finish. This one task is just the same, so let’s find out the steps of writing an autobiographical essay.

Creating an Outline

Before you start writing, you need to think a little about the content of your work. It’s crucial to define what your target audience is and what is the moral of the stories that you include in your autobiography. Try to look at your essay from the perspective of potential readers. Ask yourself what they would like to know about you and which valuable lessons you can give with your story. 

Write down some key points that you want your work to include and gather them in chronological order, creating a brief outline of your paper. An outline is always a good thing to start with, as it helps you avoid forgetting something important. It’s also a great helper when you are stuck in the middle of your essay.

Writing an Introduction

Like any other essay, your autobiographical essay should consist of the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. When starting to draft your essay, you should think of a good and catchy introduction. The first sentence of your paper is the most important one as it should draw attention and consist of a great hook for a reader.

What is a good introduction for an autobiography? You can start your work with a quote, a funny joke, a rhetorical question, etc. It’s always great if you can bring a little creativity and avoid cliches when introducing yourself. Provide a little background information about yourself and finish your introductory part with a significant milestone or event in your life.

Drafting the Body Paragraphs

As you move forward through the process of writing your work, you should keep in mind a few important things, which are:

  • The work should be written from your perspective. Use first-person narration and prepositions “I,” “my,” “me,” etc.
  • Stick to the timeline. Avoid jumping from one time period to another while telling your story. However, you might specify a little background when it’s needed.
  • Don’t make your work boring. Add details, humor (if it fits the story), and descriptions to make your work “alive.”
  • Add a little emotional touch when talking about events that affected your personality.
  • Don’t just make stories up. It’s always easy to cross the line with fictional details. Better concentrate on real experiences in your life.

When writing your essay, it’s always great to follow the outline that you prepared earlier. Make sure you include all the key points that you wanted to be present in your paper, and the overall flow of it serves the purpose of the work.

Writing the Closing Paragraph

The concluding part of your essay is as important as the rest of it. It should have a powerful ending and sum up the story. You might want to restate some key thoughts as well, write about some valuable life lessons that you learned or about your plans for the future.

Don’t make the concluding part too long, as the most valuable information should be put in the body paragraphs of your autobiography. However, you should also avoid ending your work with no concluding sentences at all, as it would look unfinished and chopped.

Polishing Your Essay

After you finish your draft, it’s necessary to make it look as perfect as possible. For example, you need to read your essay a few times and make changes if you find any errors regarding your grammar, punctuation, or logical flow.

You can use some grammar checkers if you are not confident enough about your work—for example, Grammarly. Or you can also turn to our team of professional writers and editors who can help you polish your essay. Not only do we write papers from scratch, but we also can help you edit your essay according to the standards of your learning institution.

Proofreading your essay is crucial to make sure you have all the elements of your essay structured correctly. Whenever you are not sure that your essay is written well, you might ask your friend to read it – a fresh look from another person might be very helpful, especially if you are working on your paper for a long time and can’t stay unbiased. 

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