No perfect definitions exist to cleanly separate profiles from sketches. Different editors and writers call a sketch a profile or a profile a sketch, so I'm not trying here to make a final statement about which is which. I separate profiles and sketches on the basis of depth of applications of creative NoNFictioN / 243
treatment and purpose. A profile tries to give us a short (say 1,000- to 10,000-word) biographical summary of a person. The sketch tries only to get at the essence of a person, not his or her life story. Personal histories (autobiographies) are written by the person involved, whereas profiles and sketches are written by someone other than the subject. A personal history, by my loose definition, is of book length (say 50,000 words or more) and may be written with almost any structure the person wants.
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