Difference Wiki

Preface vs. Acknowledgement: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 19, 2023
"A preface is an introduction to a book written by the author, discussing the book's genesis. An acknowledgement is a section where the author gives thanks for support received during the writing process."

Key Differences

A "preface" often serves as a direct communication between the author and the readers, explaining the purpose, scope, and inspiration for the book. "Acknowledgements," however, are focused on expressing gratitude to individuals or groups who contributed to the book's creation, providing a personal touch.
The "preface" is typically reserved for the author's voice, giving them a platform to share valuable insights about the content, process, or perspective that led to the book's development. In contrast, "acknowledgements" are the author's opportunity to publicly recognize those who offered support, whether emotional, financial, or editorial, acknowledging their roles in the journey.
In the "preface," authors may discuss what motivated them to write the book, the book's development, and the author's viewpoint. "Acknowledgements" are less about the book's substance and more about giving thanks, often less formal or academic in tone.
While both "preface" and "acknowledgements" serve different purposes, they're united in providing context that goes beyond the book's main content. The "preface" sets the stage for what's to come, while "acknowledgements" reflect on the journey taken to bring the book to fruition.
A "preface" might also include what the author hopes the reader will gain from the book, making it a pivotal element for setting reader expectations. "Acknowledgements," while heartfelt, are not essential for understanding the content of the book but add a layer of personal connection between the author and their support system.

Comparison Chart


Discuss book's genesis, purpose, scope
Thank individuals/groups for their support


Written by the author
Written by the author

Position in the book

Usually at the beginning
Can be at the beginning or end


Formal, informative
Personal, grateful


Common in non-fiction, less so in fiction
Common in all types of books

Preface and Acknowledgement Definitions


Something preliminary or introductory, leading to or explaining the main matter.
The documentary served as a preface to his book series.


The act of expressing or displaying gratitude or appreciation for something.
She smiled in acknowledgement of the crowd's applause.


To introduce (a book) with a preface.
He prefaces his novel with a famous quote.


Recognition of the existence or truth of something.
His acknowledgement of the facts surprised everyone.


A preliminary statement or essay introducing a book that explains its scope, intention, or background and is usually written by the author.


A section of a book where the author gives thanks or recognition for assistance in creating a literary work.
Her acknowledgement was heartfelt, thanking her family for their unwavering support.


An introductory section, as of a speech.


An expression of appreciation for assistance or support.
The plaque was an acknowledgement of his generous donation.


Something introductory; a preliminary
An informal brunch served as a preface to the three-day conference.


The act of admitting the existence or truth of something
Acknowledgment that the service was poor.


Often Preface The words introducing the central part of the Eucharist in several Christian churches.


Recognition or notice
Peace based on acknowledgment of a nation's sovereignty.


To introduce by or provide with a preliminary statement or essay.


An expression of thanks or appreciation
Included acknowledgments of people who helped in making the book.


To serve as an introduction to.


An answer or response in return for something
Sent an acknowledgment of receipt of the letter.


A beginning or introductory portion that comes before the main text of a document or book, typically serving to contextualize or explain the writing of the book and sometimes to acknowledge others' contributions.
The book included a brief preface explaining the author's motivations for writing.


(Law) The formal avowal of an act before a legally empowered officer, such as a judge or notary public, to ensure that the act will be legally recognized.


An introduction, or series of preliminary remarks.


Alternative spelling of acknowledgment


(Roman Catholic) The prelude or introduction to the canon of the Mass.


The state or quality of being recognized or acknowledged;
The partners were delighted with the recognition of their work
She seems to avoid much in the way of recognition or acknowledgement of feminist work prior to her own


A title or epithet.


A statement acknowledging something or someone;
She must have seen him but she gave no sign of acknowledgment
The preface contained an acknowledgment of those who had helped her


(transitive) To introduce or make a comment before (the main point).
Let me preface this by saying that I don't know him that well.


A statement printed in a book of a publisher's gratitude for permission to reprint.
The acknowledgement included a detailed list of sources.


(transitive) To give a preface to.
To preface a book


Something spoken as introductory to a discourse, or written as introductory to a book or essay; a proem; an introduction, or series of preliminary remarks.
This superficial taleIs but a preface of her worthy praise.
Heaven's high behest no preface needs.


The prelude or introduction to the canon of the Mass.


To introduce by a preface; to give a preface to; as, to preface a book discourse.


To make a preface.


A short introductory essay preceding the text of a book


Furnish with a preface or introduction;
She always precedes her lectures with a joke
He prefaced his lecture with a critical remark about the institution


An introduction to a book, written by the author, explaining its scope or purpose.
The preface provided valuable insights into the author's research methods.


An introductory part of a speech or text before the main content.
His preface captured the audience's attention before he dove into the topic.


Who writes the acknowledgements in a book?

Usually, the author writes the acknowledgements.

Can a preface be considered a form of introduction?

Yes, it's often an introductory section that precedes the main text.

Is it okay to acknowledge personal relationships?

Absolutely, acknowledgements often mention family, friends, and colleagues.

Is a preface mandatory in books?

No, a preface is optional and used at the author's discretion.

What's the difference between a preface and a foreword?

A preface is written by the author, while a foreword is by someone other than the author, often an expert or a notable person in the field.

Should a preface be lengthy?

It varies, but prefaces are usually concise, providing just enough context for the reader.

What's the purpose of the acknowledgement section in research papers?

To thank or credit individuals or institutions that contributed to the research.

Can acknowledgements include humor?

Yes, the tone of acknowledgements can be reflective of the author's personality.

What is typically included in the acknowledgement?

Thanks to individuals, organizations, or publishers that helped in the book's creation.

Can a book have both a preface and an introduction?

Yes, the preface provides background or context, while the introduction directly addresses the book's subject matter.

Are acknowledgements formal?

They can be, but they often have a more personal tone than the rest of the book.

Where is the preface located in a book?

It's usually found at the beginning, before the main text.

What's the difference between a preface and a prologue?

A preface discusses the book's creation or purpose, while a prologue is part of the story, set before the first chapter.

Are acknowledgements included in eBooks?

Yes, they're a standard part of eBooks, much like in printed books.

Can acknowledgements be omitted from a book?

Yes, they're customary but not mandatory.

Who is usually acknowledged in a book?

Those who've helped in the book's creation, including editors, researchers, and supporters.

Can a preface be written by someone other than the author?

Typically, no. That would be a foreword.

What is the main goal of a preface?

To set the stage for the reader, providing context or background information.

Does every book need a preface?

No, it's an optional element often found in non-fiction.

Do acknowledgements appear in fiction and non-fiction?

Yes, they're found in both, though more common in non-fiction.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited 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.

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