Nova A.
Nova A.

Autobiography vs. Biography - Learn the Differences

13 min read

Published on: May 24, 2023

Last updated on: Jul 22, 2024

Autobiography Vs. Biography

Many students are often confused about the differences between autobiographies and biographies, leading to incorrect use of the terms.

While autobiographies and biographies share similarities there are key differences that can impact how the story is told and perceived. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the nuances of autobiographies and biographies. We will explore their unique features and how they differ from one another. By the end of this post, you will be able to choose the appropriate one for your needs.

So, let's dive into the world of autobiographies and biographies!

On This Page

Autobiography

An autobiography is a written account of one's life, written by the person themselves. It is a form of personal narrative where the author reflects on their experiences, challenges, accomplishments, and growth throughout their life.

Writing an autobiography can be a powerful way to reflect on one's life and share their story with others. It can provide insight into the human experience and inspire others to reflect on their own lives and experiences.

Purpose of Writing an Autobiography

People may choose to write an autobiography for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To reflect on their life and experiences
  • To share their story with others
  • To inspire and motivate others
  • To preserve their legacy
  • To come to terms with difficult experiences

Examples of Famous Autobiographies

Some of the best-known autobiographies include:

Benefits of Writing an Autobiography

There are many benefits to writing an autobiography, including:

  • Self-reflection and personal growth: Writing an autobiography involves reflecting on one's life experiences, leading to personal growth and self-awareness.
  • Preservation of personal history and legacy: Writing an autobiography helps preserve the author's personal history and legacy for future generations.
  • Healing and closure: Writing an autobiography can be a healing and cathartic experience that leads to closure and acceptance of past traumas or struggles.
  • Increased self-awareness and understanding: Writing an autobiography increases self-awareness and understanding of oneself and others.
  • Inspiring and motivating others: Sharing one's life story can inspire and motivate others by providing a model for personal growth and reflection.

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Biography

A biography is a written account of a person's life, detailing their experiences, accomplishments, and challenges. Biographies can be written about anyone, from historical figures to contemporary celebrities. 

They offer readers a glimpse into the lives of individuals who have had a significant impact on the world around them. By documenting a person's legacy, biographies ensure that their contributions are not forgotten.

Purpose of Writing a Biography

There are various reasons why people may opt to write a biography including:

  • To provide an accurate and detailed account of a person's life.
  • To inspire and educate readers about the accomplishments and challenges of a person's life.
  • To document and preserve the legacy of a person for future generations.
  • To provide insight into the historical and cultural context in which a person lived.
  • To shed light on the personal and emotional experiences of a person's life.

Examples of Famous Biographies

Here are some of the most renowned biographies that are widely recognized:

Benefits of Writing a Biography

Let’s take a look at some benefits of writing biographies: 

  • Provides a deeper understanding of a person's life and legacy: Biographies offer readers a better understanding of who a person was, what they stood for, and what they achieved.
  • Offers insights into the historical and cultural context: Biographies shed light on the societal norms, political climate, and cultural trends of the time. It helps readers understand the challenges and opportunities a person faced.
  • Preserves a person's legacy for future generations: Biographies ensure that a person's legacy is preserved for future generations to learn from and be inspired by.
  • Provides inspiration and education for readers: Biographies offer insights into how successful individuals achieved their goals. It inspires readers to achieve their own goals and make a positive impact.
  • Can offer a cathartic release for the author: Writing a biography can be a healing and transformative experience for the author. It can help authors come to terms with their own experiences and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

Expert Tip

Check out this blog if you are interested to learn about different types of autobiography!

Autobiography vs Biography - Differences

Here's a detailed table outlining the differences between an autobiography and a biography:


AutobiographyBiography
DefinitionA written account of one's own life, written by oneselfA written account of someone else's life, written by another person
PerspectiveWritten in the first-person perspective, from the author's point of viewWritten in the third-person perspective, from the biographer's point of view
ObjectivityCan be subjective, as the author may have a personal bias or emotional connection to the events describedGenerally more objective, as the biographer is not directly involved in the events being described
ToneCan be more emotional and personal, reflecting the author's own experiences and perspectivesGenerally more neutral and factual, focusing on the subject's life and accomplishments
ScopeCovers the author's entire life or a specific period of their life, as determined by the authorCan cover a person's entire life, or a specific period of their life, as determined by the biographer

Autobiography vs Biography - Similarities

This table outlines the similarities between autobiography and biography:


AutobiographyBiography
DefinitionBoth are written accounts of a person's life, experiences, and achievementsBoth offer readers insight into the life and legacy of a person
Historical SignificanceBoth can offer insights into the historical and cultural context of the time in which the person livedBoth can be used to study history and culture
Learning OpportunityBoth can inspire and educate readers about how individuals overcame challenges and made a difference in the worldBoth can provide insights into how individuals achieve their goals
ReflectionBoth can be cathartic experiences for the author or biographer, as they reflect on the life of the subject or themselves Both can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and others

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How to Write an Autobiography?

Here are some steps to follow when writing an autobiography:

Step#1: Determine The Purpose and Scope of Your Autobiography
Before you start writing, consider why you want to write your autobiography and what you hope to achieve. Decide on the scope of your autobiography, such as whether you will cover your entire life or a specific period of time.

Step#2: Choose Your Perspective
As the author of your autobiography, you can choose to write it from a first-person point of view. It allows readers to experience the events and emotions from your perspective. 

Alternatively, you could choose to write it from a third-person perspective, providing a more objective and detached account of your life.

Step#3: Decide on the Tone
The tone of your autobiography will depend on your purpose and perspective. It could be emotional and personal, or more neutral and factual.

Step#4: Organize Your Thoughts
Before you start writing, create an outline of the key events and experiences you want to include in your autobiography. This will help you stay focused and ensure that you cover all the important aspects of your life.

Step#5: Write Your Autobiography
Start with an engaging introduction that captures the reader's attention and sets the tone for your autobiography. Then, move on to the main body of your autobiography, covering the key events and experiences of your life. 
Finally, conclude your autobiography with a reflection on your life and what you have learned.

Step#6: Edit and Revise
Once you have completed your first draft, take a break and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Edit and revise your autobiography, ensuring that it is well written and organized.

Step#7: Publish or Share Your Autobiography
Depending on your goals, you could choose to publish your autobiography as a book or share it with friends and family. There are different types of books you could consider, such as a memoir, a personal history, or a collection of essays.

Expert Tip

Explore our blog to get inspiring autobiography examples!


How to Write a Biography?

When writing a biography, there are several steps you can follow to ensure that your work is well-researched, engaging, and informative. Here are some tips:

Step#1: Choose Your Subject: 
Select a person to write about whose life story you find interesting and who has made significant contributions in their field or community. 

Step#2: Research
Conduct thorough research on the person you have chosen. Gather information from various sources such as books, articles, interviews, and primary sources.

Step#3: Outline
Create an outline of your biography, deciding on the structure, the key events you will cover, and the themes you will explore.

Step#4: Determine Your Point of View
Decide on the point of view you will take when writing the biography, whether it will be first-person or third-person.

Step#5: Choose the Type of Book
Determine the type of biography you will write. Will it be a comprehensive, cradle-to-grave biography? Will it focus on a specific period of the person's life or a particular aspect of their work?

Step#6: Write the First Draft
Begin writing your biography, using your research and outline to guide your writing. When writing, try to make the biography engaging, informative, and accessible to a broad audience.

Step#7: Edit and Revise
After completing the first draft, edit and revise your work. This ensures that your biography is free of errors and effectively communicates the life and legacy of your subject.

Step#8: Consider a Subject-Written Biography
If possible, consider using a subject-written biography as a source of information. 
For example, if you are writing a biography about George Washington, you could read "His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis”. It will help you gain insights from the perspective of the subject.

Autobiography Vs. Biography Vs. Memoir

The below table compares three different types of nonfiction: autobiography, biography, and memoir. You'll find that they all have their own distinct differences from one another and share many similar qualities. 

AutobiographyBiographyMemoir
Written by the subjectWritten by an authorWritten by the subject
Covers the subject's entire life storyCovers a specific person's life storyThe memoir focuses on a specific period or theme in the author's life
Written in chronological orderWritten in chronological order or by themeWritten in chronological order or by theme
Personal and introspectiveObjective and informativePersonal and introspective

 

Expert Tip

Explore the provided link to access a wealth of information on writing a memoir.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between an autobiography and a biography is crucial for any writer. While both genres aim to tell the story of someone's life, they have distinct differences that should be acknowledged. 

Autobiographies are firsthand accounts written by the subject themselves, while biographies are written by someone else about the subject's life. It is important to consider the purpose and audience of your writing when deciding which genre to pursue. 

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Nova A.

WRITTEN BY

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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