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Autobiography vs. Memoir: Definitions & Writing Tips

types of autobiography

Autobiography and memoirs are written to tell the life story of the writer. An autobiography covers the author’s whole life, while a memoir focuses on specific events. These two terms are used interchangeably, but there are obvious and practical differences between the two similar genres.

Writing a memoir and autobiography is a creatively challenging experience, even for the most experienced of writers.

Therefore, read on this blog and get to know the difference and similarities between autobiography vs. memoir.

Definition of Memoir vs. Autobiography

The memoir and autobiography are the terms that overlap each other, so the confusion is understandable. These two are the formats that are used to tell a creative non-fiction story. However, there are some differences that you need to know before using the most appropriate one.

Let us discuss the definition of both in detail.


A memoir is based on the author’s real-life experience, and it is written from its point of view. Also, they are not covering their whole life from birth to the present. However, they explore a specific era in great detail, which makes them much different from other writing genres.

Memoirs are more personal and focused on the writer's life. It should be written from the first-person point of view.

The main purpose of the memoir is to:

  • Share the personal life experience with the readers.
  • Tell the story from the author’s perspective.
  • Connect with others who have similar or the same situations.
  • Help the people to understand that they are not alone in their experiences.
  • Make sense of the threads and themes of their life, as well as identify what's important.

Moreover, the memoir is a type of autobiography that gives a glimpse of the specific event of the writer’s life. Also, the memoir should be:

  • Novelistic
  • Descriptive
  • Well-written
  • Specific
  • Natural

The memoir also focuses on the relationship between the author and a particular place or person. Also, they tend to be read more like a fiction novel than a factual account. It includes the following things:

  • Character
  • Dialogue
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Storyline

However, for a great memoir, you should share snippets from their life. Also, do not try to tell the entire story in one sitting.

Here is an example that gives you a better idea of the memoir.

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Memoir Example


An autobiography focuses on the writer’s entire life and discusses the significant events of their life. It comes through the writer’s own life and in his own words. People write autobiographies to record their feelings and ideas to share with others. Then get it published to reach a greater number of people.

The main purpose of the autobiography is to:

  • Inform or teach someone about something.
  • Present the facts based on a memoir.
  • Focus on the most important events and people in the writer’s life.
  • Give you a better insight into how their experiences have shaped them as a person.

Moreover, an autobiography is written in a fictional tale that closely mirrors events from the author’s real life. However, your autobiography should be:

  • Logical
  • Relevant
  • Easy to read
  • Free from obscure details

The below example will help you in writing a good autobiography.

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Autobiography Example

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Autobiography vs. Memoir: Differences and Similarities

The autobiography and memoir have some differences and similarities. You must know them before you start writing it.

The below table shows the differences between autobiography and memoir.

Autobiography Memoir
Chronological narrative Not a chronological narrative
Historical and factual truths Emotional truths
Focus on the author entire life Cover only a specific part of the author life
Written by famous people Written by anyone
People read autobiographies because they want to know about a particular person's life Memoirs are read because of the subject, story, or voice that they provide.

Here are some similarities between autobiography and memoir.

  • Both use the first-person point of view.
  • Both demonstrate the life of the author.
  • Focus on the limited aspect of the author’s life.
  • Nonfiction literary genre.
  • Presents facts as the person experiencing them.

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Biography vs. Autobiography vs. Memoir

Some students get confused between biography, autobiography, and memoir. They are not the same and are written for different purposes.

Check the below table and better understand the similarities and differences between biography, autobiography, and memoir.

Biography Autobiography Memoir
Objective in nature Subjective in nature Subjective in nature
Write in the 3rd person point of view Write in the 1st person point of view Write in the 1st person point of view
Broad in scope or timeline Broad in scope or timeline Narrow in scope or timeline
Focused solely on facts Focused more on facts than emotions Focused more on feelings and memories than facts
It can be written anytime It is usually written later in life It can be written anytime
Requires meticulous research and fact-checking to ensure accuracy Requires more extensive fact-checking and research Require research comprehensively
Cover the person’s life Cover the author entire life Cover only a specific part of the author life

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Memoir vs. Autobiography vs. Personal Narrative

The below table shows the differences and similarities between memoir, autobiography, and personal narrative.

Memoir Autobiography Personal Narrative
About the author’s own life About the author’s own life About the author’s own life
The lesson learned is embedded Include events significant to them Share a life lesson
Inform and entertain the audience by focusing on one aspect of the life Inform and entertain the audience with stories from their entire life Inform and entertain the audience with one story from their life
Subjective in nature Subjective in nature Subjective in nature
Written chronologically Move back and forth in time Written chronologically

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Tips for Writing the Autobiography and Memoir

The following are the tips that you should follow and create a well-written autobiography and memoir.

  • Use fiction-writing techniques.
  • Write in an engaging way.
  • Mention the specific dates of the events.
  • Focused on facts.
  • Dialogues in memoir should be natural instead of journalistic.
  • Do in-depth research.
  • Start with a strong hook.
  • Use the correct memoir and autobiography format.
  • Pick a strong theme.
  • Focus on the main events of the person’s life.

Now, you get a complete understanding of the autobiography and memoir. However, still, any confusion in writing is better than simply consult 5StarEssays.com.

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