Memoir vs. Autobiography: Understanding the Differences

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  • August 18, 2023
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  • 7 min read



Many people have never heard the difference between a memoir and an autobiography or don’t know what they mean. Others may be aware of similarities between these two types of writing but are unsure of what those similarities are. In this post, the ghostwriting founder will cover all the major differences between Memoir and Autobiography so you can decide which is right for you!


A memoir is a personal history; a living person usually tells it. It can be factual or fictionalized and often includes details that may be embarrassing or painful to the writer and their family.

Memoirs are often written by famous people who have already died, such as Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, featured in our Best Autobiographies of All Time list., such as Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (both included on our list).

Whereas autobiographies are biographical, meaning they’re about a person’s life. They can be written by famous people or just regular folk.

Famous people often write autobiographies because they want their stories told before they die, much like the compelling narratives found in Best-Selling Non-Fiction Books of All Time., and their children can’t do it for them. Autobiographies of famous people are more interesting than those of ordinary folks.


Memoirs are written from a first-person perspective. That means that the writer will write it as if it is dictating. They will tell it like a story as if it’s their own story as they experienced it.

While it’s common for people to write about themselves in memoirs, it’s not normal for them to do so in autobiographies. Many autobiographers avoid using first-person pronouns at all costs—even when the story is told from their perspective.

Whereas, Autobiographies can be written in the third-person or first person

An autobiography is a form of writing that tells the story of your life, from birth to death. It can be written in either the first person or the third person.

In first person (I), you use “I” as your narrator and informally tell about yourself.

First-person narratives tend to be more personal than third-person ones. However, there are exceptions where authors have chosen to write their memoirs using a detached tone or voice. They often do it, so it distances them from their experiences.

Regardless if you choose a first or third-person perspective for your work, both present unique challenges when writing about yourself

The tone

The tone of Memoir vs. Autobiography is usually informal and conversational, akin to the narrative style discussed in our guide on Exploring the Depths of Literary Fiction. The writer speaks directly to the reader, using first-person pronouns such as “I” and “you.” This gives the impression that you are sitting with your grandmother over tea and cookies, listening to her stories.

The tone of an autobiography is usually formal and fact-based. The writer uses third-person pronouns like “he” or “she,”. This often gives the impression that they are looking back on their life. It gives a more objective point of view than we get from reading a memoir!

There may also be less emotion involved when writing about yourself versus someone else’s story. After all, no one wants their life story written off as too emotional!

Whereas, The tone of autobiographies is usually formal and fact-based.

Autobiographies are usually more fact-based and formal than memoirs, aligning with the structured approach detailed in How to Write Non-Fiction Book: A Step-by-Step Guide. They’re written by people who are still alive and haven’t been through all of the experiences yet. They have time to reflect on their lives objectively without being too emotional.

Memoirs vs. Autobiography are more personal because they are written by someone who has already died or lived through all her life experiences. This allows for a much more emotional tone in memoirs than autobiographies would allow for.

The topic of focus

A Memoir vs. Autobiography usually focuses on a single topic, such as childhood or a special experience. An autobiography is more comprehensive as it covers the author’s life rather than just one aspect.

 For example

This would be a memoir if you were writing about your childhood and teenage years in detail. However, it would be classified as an autobiography if you also went into great detail about adulthood and beyond (including things like marriage).

However, a biography is like a historical text because you write it about something or someone that is gone and in the past.

But, A biography is more than just a story of someone’s life. It can also include details about their family, friends and associates, as well as their cultural context.

Biographies often discuss the subject’s works or career in addition to personal details like their relationships with others or their hobbies outside of work. Biographers tend to take a third-person point of view when writing these texts. It is because they are not involved with the subject being discussed.

Memoirs tend to be more emotional than autobiographies

As you can see, there are many differences between Memoir vs. Autobiography. The main difference is that in a Memoir vs. Autobiography, the author writes about their own life from their point of view, a process that can be refined with the help of Book Editing Services.

In An autobiography, on the other hand, you will find that it is written from a third-person perspective instead of the first-person perspective.

The other major difference is that autobiographies focus more on historical events than personal ones like memoirs do; however, this isn’t always true!

Additionally–and perhaps most importantly–Memoirs Tend To Be More Emotional Than Autobiographies, capturing the essence of what we discuss in Exploring the World of Sad Books and Emotional Reading. because they come from someone’s real-life experiences rather than just being some sort of storybook fantasy adventure tale.

Key Characteristics and Profound Details

Aspect Memoir Autobiography
Type Personal history, often written by a living person, can be factual or fictionalized, often includes embarrassing or painful details About a person’s life, can be written by famous people or regular individuals
Perspective First-person perspective First or third-person perspective
Tone Informal and conversational Formal and fact-based
Topic of Focus Focus on a single topic (e.g., childhood) Comprehensive coverage of the author’s life
Emotional Tone Tends to be more emotional Usually less emotional
Conclusion Written from the author’s point of view Often written from a third-person perspective


If you’re providing memoir writing services, it’s important to use your own words whenever possible. or the Autobiography writing services, it’s important to use your own words whenever possible. If you’re quoting others, get their permission first to quit it. And if someone doesn’t want their words used in the book and asks for them to be removed, take their request seriously and don’t use their quotes if possible.

Also, avoid using quotes unless absolutely necessary–and even then, only use those directly relevant to what you’re trying to say.

However, lastly, we hope this blog post has helped you understand the differences between a Memoir vs. Autobiography. For those looking to publish their stories, our Book Publishing experts can guide you through the next steps. If you’re still confused, we recommend reading some examples of each genre to get a feel for how they work and what they look like in practice.

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