Memoir vs Autobiography – Difference Between Memoir and Autobiography

Memoir vs Autobiography – Difference Between Memoir and Autobiography

A memoir is a written account that focuses on one or more periods of a person’s life presenting one or more themes to the readers. An autobiography is the life story of the entire existence of a person.

These two have quite a number of things in common, which explains why the terms are used interchangeably even though it is incorrect to do so. One of the similarities is that they are both written from the perspective of the subject, either by the subject himself or herself or by a writer.

So, if you are one of those trying to make sense of these two words or if you never knew they had differences between them in the first place, this guide provides a thorough explanation of the mind-boggling question: “What is the difference between memoir and autobiography?” Still confused about what you just found out, you shouldn’t worry. Just get ready as we walk you through this interesting, well-researched article.

Definition of Memoir – So What Is Memoir?

A memoir is defined as a written reflection of one or more specified areas of a person’s life with the intention of connecting with the reader on a personal level.

For a written piece to be considered a memoir, it needs to be a true first-person account with no additions or subtractions. This is probably the most obvious similarity seen in the memoir vs autobiography comparison.

Also, it has to be a portion of the story of a person’s life and not the whole story. The writer intentionally chooses a particular theme and tells detailed stories that describe the relevance of that theme.

The subject of this type of writing is referred to as a memoirist. The memoirist may be a famous person that has experienced interesting and exceptional things in life; he or she may also be a regular person who wants to share one or more action-packed life events.

You must keep in mind that people who read memoirs mostly do so not because they are interested in the memoirist but because they are drawn to the theme of the story. So, it is about the event and not the character.

Here is a summary of the key features of a memoir:

  • Written based on the feelings and memories of the memoirist
  • Narrated from a first-person point of view
  • Flexible narration for the sake of effect
  • Relatively less formal compared to autobiographies
  • Based on a limited scope and timeline

Definition of Autobiography – So What Is Autobiography?

An autobiography is defined as the life story of a person of interest written in chronological order from the first-person point of view. This story is written either by the person in question or by a prolific ghostwriter who can effectively translate the story into a professionally appealing and market-worthy form.

From the definition, you can see how autobiography vs memoir compares to each other; they are quite similar but fundamentally different. Also, from the definition, the former is said to be written in chronological order, which cannot always be said about the latter.

Another feature that makes an autobiography different from a memoir is the autobiography’s focus on famous persons that have accomplished remarkable feats in life. Basically, people are usually drawn to this type of writing because they want to know more about the subject.

You would not be wrong to say that this form of first-person account is based more on facts than any other factor. In other words, it is written from a historical point of view that emphasizes how the subject fits into historical records.

Here are some key features summarizing an autobiography:

  • Written based on fairly in-depth research and fact-checking
  • Projects facts more than emotions
  • Written from a first-person point of view
  • Covers a wide scope of the author’s life
  • Written in a more formal tone compared to memoirs
  • May be written with the help of another writer as a collaboration

What Is the Main Difference Between Memoir and Autobiography?

As stated earlier, we will go ahead to spot the difference between memoir and autobiography for you by drawing the distinction in a tabular form.

Basis of ComparisonMemoir Autobiography 
Meaning An important event or series of events that happened in someone’s life, and were written by him/her A self-account of someone’s life history
Formality Less formal   Very formal
Author Written by the person himself/herself Although the person concerned is supposed to have written this document, that’s not always the case. Because it is a very formal document, the character in question sometimes engages a professional curator. She/He tells the story and the curator writes it.
Character It could be about just anyone Usually has to do with famous/influential people           
Focus  Emphasis is placed on emotional experiences and interiority   y     This is based on facts, history and engaging stories.

So What’s the Difference Between Memoir vs Autobiography? – Conclusion

Are you still wondering: “What is the difference between autobiography and memoir?” Well, there is no denying the fact that this article has done significant justice to this issue. Yes, the difference between autobiography and memoir has been clearly explained in the table above. For a quick recap, broadly speaking, their disparity is based on these key factors:

  • Definition
  • Focus
  • Character  
  • Formality
  • Writer

Although there could be more contrasts between the two related words, those aspects differentiate them. Therefore, we strongly advise that you don’t use them interchangeably, as there are obvious disparities between them.

However, if you are put on the spot because you have a series of words to use, you may go ahead and ignore this grammar rule. But then, it is always pertinent that you keep in mind that there is a difference between autobiography and memoir. With that being said, you should go ahead and enlighten lots of people who have not yet understood this crucial disparity.

The truth is that many people have not yet understood the disparity. It is even surprising that some writers still do not know that the two words have some contrasts. Whenever you hear the question: “What is the difference between autobiography and memoir?” Do not hesitate to explain the disparity in detail just as we have done in this well-researched guide. When you do so, you don’t have to hide the fact that you are contributing to the quest for a more informed society.