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Autobiography vs. Memoir: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
Autobiography is a chronological account of a person's entire life, while a memoir focuses on specific events or periods, offering personal insights.

Key Differences

An autobiography is a comprehensive retelling of a person's life written by themselves, often from birth to the present. A memoir, on the other hand, hones in on specific episodes or periods, diving deep into the emotions, experiences, and personal interpretations surrounding them.
Autobiographies typically emphasize factual events and are chronologically structured. They aim to provide a broad overview of the author's entire life journey. In contrast, memoirs might skip around in time, with a focus on the subjective and the reflective, capturing the essence of moments rather than the sweep of a life.
When reading an autobiography, one expects an objective, fact-driven account of the writer's life, akin to a personal historical document. Memoirs, however, provide readers with a window into the writer's soul, granting access to deeply personal feelings, reactions, and interpretations.
Both autobiographies and memoirs are rooted in truth and are non-fiction, but their approaches differ. An autobiography is a biography of oneself, providing a panoramic view of the author's life. Meanwhile, memoirs are intimate, providing close-ups of life's significant or transformative events.
In essence, while autobiographies aim to tell the story of a life, memoirs aim to share the personal significance of specific life events, periods, or experiences.

Comparison Chart


Covers the author's entire life.
Focuses on specific events/periods.


Generally chronological.
Can be non-linear.


Objective facts of life.
Personal insights and reflections.


Typically longer.
Can be shorter and more focused.


Factually accurate account.
Emotionally truthful account.

Autobiography and Memoir Definitions


A self-written account of one's entire life.
In her autobiography, Maya Angelou uncovers the layers of her life.


A narrative focusing on specific life events.
His memoir about the war offers deep emotional insights.


A narrative of one's life penned by oneself.
Benjamin Franklin's autobiography details his journey from youth to statesman.


A personal account highlighting particular moments.
In her memoir, she recounts her years in the music industry.


A written record of personal life events.
Her autobiography provides insights into the challenges she faced.


Reflections on a segment of one's life journey.
The memoir delves into his years as a journalist.


A factual, chronological self-account.
The scientist's autobiography chronicles his groundbreaking discoveries.


An intimate exploration of transformative experiences.
Her memoir sheds light on her battle with mental health.


A personal chronicle of the author's experiences.
His autobiography takes readers through the highs and lows of his career.


A selective account providing personal perspectives.
The actor's memoir reveals behind-the-scenes moments from his films.


The biography of a person written by that person.


An account of the personal experiences of an author.


(countable) A self-written biography; the story of one's own life.


(uncountable) Biographies of this kind regarded as a literary genre.


A biography written by the subject of it; memoirs of one's life written by one's self.


A biography of yourself


Is a memoir always truthful?

Memoirs aim for emotional truth, though events might be seen through the author's personal lens.

What distinguishes a memoir?

A memoir focuses on specific events or periods in one's life, offering personal insights.

Can an author write both an autobiography and memoir?

Yes, they can write an autobiography about their life and a memoir about particular events.

Are autobiographies written in the first person?

Yes, as they are personal accounts.

Which is typically longer, an autobiography or memoir?

Autobiographies are usually longer, covering an entire life.

Are autobiographies always accurate?

They aim for factual accuracy, but personal biases can influence perceptions.

Which is more objective, autobiography or memoir?

Autobiographies tend to be more objective, while memoirs are subjective.

What is an autobiography?

An autobiography is a self-written account of one's entire life.

Can memoirs span just a year?

Yes, memoirs can focus on any specific period, even if it's just a short time.

Can memoirs be fictionalized?

While rooted in truth, memoirs may contain embellished or reconstructed dialogue/events.

Can one's life have multiple memoirs?

Yes, different memoirs can focus on different events or periods.

Can a memoir be about someone else?

Generally, memoirs are personal accounts, but they can center around someone significant to the author.

Are memoirs always serious?

No, memoirs can be humorous, sad, reflective, or a mix of emotions.

Do all famous people write autobiographies?

Not all, but many choose to share their life stories.

How are autobiographies researched?

They're based on personal memories, but may include diaries, letters, and interviews.

Can a memoir cover childhood?

Absolutely, if those years had significant impact or relevance to the author's story.

Why write an autobiography?

To share one's life story and personal journey with readers.

Why are memoirs popular?

They offer intimate insights into specific life experiences and are relatable.

Is an autobiography the same as a biography?

No, autobiographies are self-written; biographies are about someone, written by someone else.

What's the main purpose of a memoir?

To share personal insights, reflections, and perspectives on specific life events.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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