How long should a parent profile letter be? Or should I say, how short?
If you’ve just started writing — or wrestling with — yours, you probably have plenty of questions. Questions about the content, about the tone, about the photos. And, if you’re like most people trying to adopt, about the length.
So is there an ideal number of words you need to write, and if so, what is it? The question is simple. But finding an answer is anything but. That’s because profile writing is more of an art than a science.
Connecting with a prospective birthmother
As with so many things in open adoption, there is no definitive answer. Each case is different. What works for others may not work for you. An adoption or parent profile is probably the hardest — and most important — letter you’ll ever write, your best networking tool to reach out to, and hopefully connect with, a prospective birthmother.
Some hopeful parents may be able to say everything they need to say in 500 words. Others may need 1000 words. And still others may need 2,000. So which is the right length? All of them are, and none of them. The truth is, at the end of the day, your adoption profile letter should only be as long as it needs to be. No more, and no less.
That means if you can say everything you need to say in 750 words, there’s no reason to pad it just because others you’ve read are 1,000. Think quality, not quantity.
If, for example, you suddenly find yourself running out of things to say at the 700-word mark, stop while you’re ahead. At a later date, you can always go back and expand on what you’ve written.
Include thoughts on parenting and adoption
Just make sure that the new content is relevant — that it contains information that a prospective birthmother wants to know, whether it be about you, your interests, your family, your home, your thoughts about parenting and adoption, or on the relationship you want to have with your her. Adding something just for the sake of adding something will only detract from what you’ve written and turn off your reader.
Remember, your profile letter is only one of many that a prospective birthmother will be considering. After once you’ve read a bunch of them, they can all start sounding the same. Your job is to make yours stand out and ensure that the reading process is as easy and painless as possible. Be brief, and try to say what you need to say in the fewest words possible.
My own view on the subject is that less is more, especially on the web. When people are online, they don’t really read. They skim. They scan. And they skip. Instead of poring over every word or paragraph, they jump from sentence to sentence trying to find something — an interesting detail or sequence of words — to latch on to.
Your parent profile should look as good as it sounds
Looking for parents for your baby by reading through a pile of profile letters is intimidating enough. Don’t add to the prospective birthmother’s anxiety by making yours longer than it needs to be. The fact is, the longer your profile is, the less of a chance your reader will read it to the end. And just think how devastated you would be if after spending all that time carefully crafting your words you found out nobody had read them.
But as important as the length may be, don’t underestimate the look. Your profile letter should look as good as it sounds. Make it reader friendly. By that I mean avoid using fancy fonts and reverse (black and white) text. Sure, they may be more interesting visually, but they’re hard to read. Keep the type and the text simple and straightforward, and use lots of white space. It’s the simplest way to grab your reader’s attention and keep it.
There’s lots more to say on the subject. But at this point I should probably take my own advice and cut this post short before it gets too long. In closing, while the length of your profile is important, the most important element is what goes in it.
Speak from the heart and don’t put anything in it that doesn’t relate to the its objective or that you can’t back up later. And while you’re at it, try to enjoy the process as best you can. I know, easier said than done. But don’t forget, when all is said and done, this could very well be the letter of your lifetime.